October 14, 2016

ASHE SCHOW ON A WATERSHED MOMENT: Education Department finds school violated rights of the accused.

In an extraordinary finding, the Education Department determined the rights of a student accused of sexual assault were violated at Wesley College in Dover, Del.

In all but one instance (that I know of) the Department’s Office for Civil Rights has only found schools to have violated the rights of accusers, while imposing new and conflicting rules on all schools. In its 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, which forced schools to adjudicate campus sexual assault using the barest of protections for accused students, OCR set the groundwork for a flood of civil rights violations for accused students.

But now it appears a male accused student has actually won a victory with OCR. In a letter sent to Wesley College on Wednesday, OCR concluded its investigation of the school and identified a number of troubling aspects of the so-called “investigations” conducted by Wesley against students accused of sexual assault.

Wesley was found to be punishing accused students with an “interim suspension” based solely on an accusation, before any investigation — or even interview with the accused — had been conducted. In at least one case, the accused student was not even interviewed during the investigation and was provided the wrong information about the school’s policies and procedures, making him unprepared for his hearing, as he thought it was just his first interview. This student was also not provided a copy of or the information contained in the incident report against him prior to the hearing.

In other cases, accused students were not able to provide witnesses or other evidence of their innocence at the hearing.

In addition, OCR determined that Wesley failed to retain records and information regarding the investigations, resolutions and hearings of sexual assault complaints. The school was deleting them just 10 days after the hearing. This, OCR wrote, resulted in information not being available to the federal government during its investigation.

I didn’t think the Education Department believed that the accused had rights.

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