Iowa College Takes Unusual Step Towards Reviewing Sexual Assault Cases

A small Iowa college has surprised people by requesting that the Office for Civil Rights review their handling of three sexual assault cases.

Grinnell College in Iowa has asked the federal government to review the school’s handling of recent sexual assault cases in a move that drew praise from some and suspicion from others.

Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington asked the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to decide whether the school complied with Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education, when it dealt with three sexual assault cases dating back to the 2011-2012 school year.

In most cases colleges do everything they can to avoid involving the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which can bring negative publicity and force schools to make costly changes, according to Kington says he is taking the risk of requesting the OCR’s involvement because school officials are “doing what we think is right.” OCR pointed to the request as an important step toward combatting campus sexual violence.

But Dissenting Voices, a student activist group, thinks the request is mainly a public relations move to avoid negative press. Some current and former Grinnell students had already filed a Title IX complaint February 19, though Kington says he was unaware of the pending complaint. A lawyer representing the complainants says she supports the college’s decision, but wants to see significant changes in the college’s procedures for handling sexual assault.

Grinnell is a small private school of 1,600 students in central Iowa.


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