Feds Find SMU in Violation of Title IX

OCR determined that Southern Methodist University failed to promptly and equitably respond to student complaints of gender-based harassment and sexual violence, including sexual assault, and to reports of retaliatory harassment.

DALLAS—The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on Thursday that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Southern Methodist University (SMU) after finding the school had violated Title IX in its handling of sexual violence claims.

OCR concluded in an investigation that SMU’s failure to respond promptly and equitably to complaints of sexual assault of a male student by another male student and of subsequent retaliatory harassment from other students resulted in a continued sexually hostile environment for the male victim, ultimately leading to the student’s withdrawal from the university. The office also found that school’s sexual harassment and sexual violence policies and its nondiscrimination notice do not comply with Title IX requirements.

During the course of the probe, SMU took steps to address the issue of sexual violence on campus. In 2013, the school implemented new and improved sexual harassment policies and procedures. It adopted the recommendations of a task force covering grievance policies, sexual misconduct reporting procedures, outreach about sexual misconduct prevention and resources, and education and training of students and parents. 

SMU has agreed to do the following:

  • Revise and, following OCR review and approval, finalize its “interim” Title IX grievance procedures to comply with Title IX.
  • Report to OCR on SMU’s ongoing implementation of the Task Force recommendations, including those requiring: the creation of a pocket-sized card for all SMU employees with information about how to support students who report sexual misconduct and a checklist for staff members who may meet with a student to outline their rights and the resources available; clearer protections against retaliation; and the development of bystander intervention training.
  • Develop and implement a procedure for sharing information between the SMU Police Department and the Title IX coordinator.
  • Notify students and employees about the university’s Title IX coordinators and their contact information in its nondiscrimination notice, as well as in other publications and notices.
  • Track harassment reports, investigations, interim measures, and resolutions.
  • Train staff and students on the revised university policies and procedures.
  • Conduct annual climate assessments to inform future proactive steps to be taken by SMU.
  • Review sexual harassment/violence complaints and reports of sexual harassment/violence filed during and since 2012-2013 to determine whether the institution investigated each complaint or report promptly and equitably and, following OCR review and approval of SMU’s proposed response, take action to address any problems identified.
  • Provide reimbursement for one student for university-related expenses and counseling.

Read the resolution letter.
Read the agreeement.

Photo: Wikimedia, Spencerjc1

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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