The U.S. Department of Education has opened another Title IX violation case involving Kansas State University, making it one of six schools in the country with five or more federal investigations underway.
The new case was opened March 27. It’s the fifth federal investigation into how K-State has handled sexual violence or harassment complaints. Title IX is the gender-equity law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and protects against sexual violence and harassment.
Only one school, Cornell University, with six active Title IX violation investigations, has more than K-State. K-State is tied for second with Indiana University-Bloomington, Stanford University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Princeton.
K-State had more such cases than any other school in the state or in Missouri, where there are two cases, one at the Missouri University of Science & Technology, another at William Jewell College.
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Overall, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights is investigating 319 cases at 229 colleges and universities. While the federal department publishes a list of all schools under investigation, it does not release details about the cases being reviewed.
All of the K-State cases being investigated by the agency involve sexual violence in 2014 and 2015. Neither the federal office nor the university would comment on the specifics of the case involved with this latest investigation.
“The fact that the Office for Civil Rights has opened an investigation does not mean that the complaint that prompted the investigation has merit,” K-State spokeswoman Cindy Hollingsworth said in an email response to The Star.
“In fact, the Office for Civil Rights’ standard notification letter that every institution receives when it is notified of a complaint investigation, states, ‘Please note that opening the complaint for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to its merits.’ For similar reasons, the fact that an institution has multiple investigations pending does not imply that it is out of compliance with Title IX.”
Hollingsworth said, “We are confident that K-State appropriately handled the matter at issue in this investigation and that OCR will reach that conclusion as well.”
A Chronicle of Higher Education special report on Title IX cases says the federal government had intervened in two of the lawsuits filed against K-State last April by two students saying the university violated Title IX when it failed to investigate their individual reports that under separate circumstances they were raped at different fraternity houses.
According to the suits, the students were told that the school would not investigate in either case because the fraternity houses where the alleged rapes occurred were off campus.
But because the alleged rapes involved Kansas State students, the lawsuits take issue with the university’s claim. They contend that under Title IX, schools have an obligation to respond to student-on-student sexual harassment that initially occurred off school grounds if a student files a complaint with the school.