U.S. Department Of Education Reaches Agreement with The Ohio State University To Address And Prevent Sexual Assault And Harassment Of Students

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The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has concluded a proactive compliance review of The Ohio State University (Ohio State), and has entered into an agreement to ensure the university’s compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) by providing a learning, living, and working environment that is free from sexual assault and sexual harassment.  This review began in 2010 and was not initiated by a complaint.

“This agreement, and The Ohio State University’s recent response to the culture within the marching band, set clear and vitally important expectations for a community-wide culture of prevention, support, and safety," said Catherine E. Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. “I applaud Ohio State for taking strong leadership now to eradicate a culture of silence related to sexual harassment. I look forward to working with Ohio State as it implements the resolution agreement.”

The university has demonstrated its strong commitment to vigorously addressing sexual assault and sexual harassment on its campuses, including by taking effective steps to stop sexual harassment, prevent its recurrence, eliminate any hostile environment, and remedy its discriminatory effects on complainants and any others as appropriate. OSU has put in place comprehensive resources for combatting and responding to sexual harassment and assault.  During the course of the review, Ohio State also undertook a number of steps to further improve its efforts to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, including:

  • Establishing a one stop Title IX webpage and creating a centralized Office of University Compliance and Integrity, and forming a sexual violence consultation team, a group of first responders that meets bi-weekly to discuss and respond to all sexual violence complaints;
  • Developing online training modules for students on bystander intervention;
  • Making substantial improvements in documenting its sexual violence investigations.

As part of the agreement, Ohio State has agreed to revise certain policies consistent with the law; review the handling of sexual harassment/violence complaints and reports since the 2011-12 academic year and continue to provide and expand mandatory sexual assault and harassment training to all members of the university community.  Ohio State will also establish a campus focus group to provide input on strategies for ensuring that students understand their rights under Title IX, how to report possible violations, and Ohio State’s obligation to promptly and equitably respond to Title IX complaints.  Ohio State will take action to ensure students and staff members are aware of Title IX’s prohibition against sexual assault and sexual harassment, including how to recognize it when it occurs, and how to report incidents; and provide timely and effective interim relief for complainants, including academic adjustments, housing changes, counseling, and health and mental services, as necessary, and document this relief in investigative files. This agreement covers all 63,000 students at the six Ohio State campuses. Ohio State is the largest public university in Ohio and also has the highest main campus enrollment of any university in the Big Ten Conference.

Through this compliance review, OCR determined that the university is in violation of Title IX because its written policies and procedures for responding to complaints, reports and other incidents of sexual violence and harassment do not comply with the law’s requirements. During the course of OCR’s compliance review, the university conducted a comprehensive investigation of alleged sexual harassment within its marching band and found that there was a sexually hostile environment for students in the marching band and that the band director failed to adequately eliminate that harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. Under established OCR policy, a sexually hostile environment violates Title IX. OCR incorporates in the resolution agreement the university’s own corrective action steps for the marching band as requirements.

A copy of the resolution letter can be found here.

A copy of the agreement can be found here.

OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.