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Harvard Law School, In Violation Of Title IX, Changes Its Sexual Assault Policies

A U.S. Department of Education investigation found that Harvard Law School did not provide a "prompt and equitable response to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault."

Posted on December 30, 2014, at 2:01 p.m. ET

Brian Snyder / Reuters

A security guard patrols a gate to the Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Oct. 4.

The U.S Department of Education on Tuesday announced that Harvard Law School has failed to respond appropriately to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault, as required by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

According to the Office for Civil Rights investigation, Harvard Law School did not provide an adequate response to complaints of sexual assault made by two students.

In one case, the school spent over a year making its final decision, and the alleged victim was not allowed to participate in the lengthy appeal process. The committee's initial ruling to expel the accused student was reversed, and the accusations of sexual assault were dismissed.

In an 18-page letter to the Dean of Harvard Law School, Martha C. Minow, Joel Berner, the regional director of the OCR, described the school's new sexual assault investigation policies and addressed the case in which the alleged victim was not provided an appeal, writing that "respondents were afforded the right to dispute Ad Board findings and to call and examine witnesses during the supplemental hearing process, while the Procedures did not afford any rights to complainants during this post-hearing process even though it could result in modified findings of fact and/or sanctions."

The entire letter to the dean is available here.

During the investigation, the Law School agreed to change its sexual harassment policies as required by Title IX.

"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," the assistant secretary for civil rights, Catherine E. Lhamon, said in a press release on Tuesday.

The revised Harvard Law policies will include include appeal rights for the alleged victim, as required by Title IX. The school will also designate a Title IX coordinator, and both students and staff will be trained in the new procedures. In addition, the school will conduct another review of sexual harassment complaints filed during 2012–13 and 2013–14.

The entire agreement is available below.