by Chelo Grubb
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Harvard University and its Law School after finding the Law School in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 for its response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault.
"I am very pleased to bring to close one of our longest-running sexual violence investigations, and I congratulate Harvard Law School for now committing to comply with Title IX and immediately implement steps to provide a safe learning environment for its students," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. "This agreement is a credit to the strong leadership of Harvard President Drew Faust and Law School Dean Martha Minow, for which I am deeply grateful and from which I know their students will benefit significantly."
Following its investigation, OCR determined that the Law School's current and prior sexual harassment policies and procedures failed to comply with Title IX's requirements for prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault. The Law School also did not appropriately respond to two student complaints of sexual assault. In one instance, the Law School took over a year to make its final determination and the complainant was not allowed to participate in this extended appeal process, which ultimately resulted in the reversal of the initial decision to dismiss the accused student and dismissal of the complainant's complaint.
During the course of OCR's investigation, the Law School adopted revised procedures that use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard for its sexual harassment investigations and afford appeal rights to both parties, in compliance with Title IX. The Law School also complied with the Title IX requirements relating to the designation of a Title IX Coordinator and publication of its non-discrimination notice.
The Law School has committed to take further specific steps to ensure that it responds to student complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence promptly and equitably. As part of its monitoring of the agreement, OCR will review and approve all of the policies and procedures to be used by the Law School, including the Law School's use of the new University-wide sexual harassment policies and procedures adopted for this academic year. The changes relating to the University-wide policies and procedures will be published in supplemental guidance and will affect all of the University's schools as they, like the Law School, decide how to implement the new University-wide policies and procedures.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Law School must:
The agreement announced today relating to the Law School does not resolve a still-pending Title IX investigation of Harvard College and its response to sexual harassment, including sexual assault, of undergraduate students.
- Revise all applicable sexual harassment policies and procedures to comply with Title IX and provide clear notice of which policy and procedure applies to Law School complaints;
- Through its Title IX Coordinator, coordinate provision of appropriate interim steps to provide for the safety of the complainant and campus community during an investigation;
- Share information between the Harvard University Police Department and the University and notify complainants of their right to file a Title IX complaint with the Law School as well as to pursue the criminal process in cases of sexual assault or other sexual violence;
- Notify students and employees about the Law School's Title IX coordinators and their contact information;
- Train staff and provide information sessions for students on the policies and procedures applicable to Law School complaints;
- Conduct annual climate assessments to assess whether the steps and measures being taken by the Law School are effective and to inform future proactive steps to be taken by Law School;
- Review any complaints of sexual harassment filed during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years to carefully scrutinize whether the Law School investigated the complaints consistent with Title IX and provide any additional remedies necessary for the complainants; and
- Track and submit for OCR's review information on all sexual harassment/violence complaints and reports of sexual harassment/violence filed during the course of the monitoring and responsive action taken by the Law School.