US Department of Education investigates Liberty University’s handling of sexual assault reports

Liberty University’s handling of allegations of sexual assault and rape among students is being investigated by the US Department of Education (DoE), according to a report.

Agents belonging to the DoE were reportedly sent to the Liberty University campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, this week to begin asking students about allegations of assault and the subsequent handling of those claims. ProPublica reported on Friday.

Legal experts and lawmakers have urged the DoE to launch a review at Liberty University amid concerns it acted in violation of the Clery Act, which requires colleges to inform students of their option to turn to law enforcement when reporting sexual assault.

Instead, students were reportedly encouraged to sign forms that said they might have broken a code of moral conduct called “The Liberty Way,” and how ProPublica found last year, some were told to “pray” after informing the institution of the aggression.

While the institution has denied such allegations, US Senator Tim Kaine reportedly said in a statement on Wednesday that he received news of the Justice Department review of Liberty University, which receives federal funding.

“The students at Liberty, or any university, need to believe that if something bad happens to them, there’s a place they can go,” said the Virginia Democrat. “[And that] They will be taken seriously and then efforts will be made immediately to identify if someone is a perpetrator and then take action against them.”

The university — which was founded by evangelical pastor Jerry Falwell — also said it “welcomes” the DoE review in a statement and would cooperate with the review. The Independent contacted the university and the US Department of Education for comment.

“Liberty University welcomes the US Department of Education’s review of our Clery Act compliance program,” the university said in a statement. “We pledge our full cooperation and look forward to the opportunity to strengthen and enhance our program through this evaluation process.”

He continued: “We also commit to working collaboratively with the Department to address any potential compliance gaps identified in the review. The University supports and embraces both the letter and the spirit of the Clery Act, which is ‘to provide students, staff and their families with accurate, complete and timely information about campus safety to better inform future decisions.’”.

So far, 23 alumni and current students have filed lawsuits against the university, which at least one student accused of failing to investigate allegations of sexual assault, as the WSLS reported on Friday.

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