Monday October 20th, 2014

The number of schools investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, specifically looking into how colleges handle claims of sexual assault, has increased more than 50 percent in the past six months, according to a report in the Washington Post.

In May, the Office for Civil Rights released a list of schools that had opened Title IX sexual violence investigations. At that time, there were 55 schools and 59 cases open. Now, there are 89 cases pending at 85 schools, which is an increase of 54 percent. Only one of the schools on the list, Ohio State, has had an investigation resolved.

Five schools -- Massachusetts-Amherst, Michigan State, Wittenberg, SMU, and Virginia -- have had investigations open for more than three years.

“The list is growing partly because we’ve told people we will be there for them,” Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant education secretary for civil rights said. “And there’s value in coming to us. I’m really pleased that people trust us -- and hope to earn that trust.”

The Office for Civil Rights' mission statement says its goal is “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.”

Lhamon said that she generally wants to resolve the investigations within six months.

“I have made it a priority to close out our old cases as quickly as we can,” she said.

One of the most high-profile Title IX investigations involves Florida State and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston. The OCR first started investigating the school in April, and Florida State opened its own probe of Winston last month.

Attorney David Cornwell, Winston's family advisor, said that he will cooperate with the investigation, which centers on Winston's alleged sexual assault of a fellow female student.

Winston was investigated by the the State attorney's office in December 2012 for the alleged sexual assault, but it decided not to pursue charges in December 2013, citing lack of evidence.

- Scooby Axson

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