September 27, 2020

Harvard Law faulted for handling of assault complaints

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Harvard-Law-LibraryBy Karen Sloan, From The National Law Journal
Harvard Law School has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education to update its sexual assault and harassment policies after a four-year investigation concluded its handling of student complaints did not comply with Title IX.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights concluded the school gave law students accused of sexual harassment or assault with more opportunities to present evidence and appeal decisions than it did their accusers, according to an announcement on Tuesday.
Additionally, investigators concluded that that law school set too high a threshold for determining when harassment occurred—a “clear and convincing” standard of evidence rather than the “preponderance of evidence” standard required under Title IX.
Investigators examined the two cases of sexual harassment filed by law students since 2005. “[The Office for Civil Rights] concluded that the law school failed to provide a prompt and equitable resolution of the two complaints,” Department of Education said in a letter to law dean Martha Minnow.
However, the law school did take measures to protect the complainants from further harassment, investigators noted.
Harvard University in July adopted a new set of Title IX policies, although the law school has agreed to additional revisions clarifying that complainants may simultaneously seek criminal investigations and will not be required to enter mediation with the accused.
In an email to the law school community, Minnow said administrators have submitted additional updates to its procedures to the department for review.
“We are deeply committed to fostering a campus climate that is free of sexual harassment and sexual violence,” Minnow wrote. “We will continue to build upon the work we have done in recent months. There will be surveys and discussion. I welcome and encourage your engagement and involvement as we do the important work of fostering a learning environment in which everyone is safe and free from sexual misconduct of any kind.”
A separate Department of Education Title IX compliance investigation into Harvard College remains pending.
“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,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon said.
Contact Karen Sloan at [email protected] For more of The National Law Journal’s law school coverage, visit: http://www.facebook.com/NLJLawSchools.
IMAGE: Harvard Law School Langdell Library in Cambridge, Mass. Photo: 15Everett via Wikimedia Commons
For more on this story go to: http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202713721883/Harvard-Law-Faulted-for-Handling-of-Assault-Complaints#ixzz3NTolnse9

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