US education department investigating Liberty University’s handling of sex assault reports

Lawmakers had called for review amid allegations

Gino Spocchia
Saturday 30 April 2022 13:24 BST
An entrance to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia
An entrance to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia (Getty Images)

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

Agents belonging to the DoE were reportedly sent to Liberty University’s 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 had called on the DoE to launch a review into Liberty University, amid concerns that it acted in violation of the Clery Act, which requires colleges to inform students about the option to go to law enforcement when reporting sexual assault.

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

While the institution has denied such claims, US senator Tim Kaine reportedly said in a statement on Wednesday that he welcomed news of the DoE’s review of Liberty University, which receives federal funding.

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

The university – which was founded by evangelical pastor Jerry Falwell – also said it “welcomes” the DoE’s review in a statement and that it would cooperate with the review. The Independent has approached both the university and US education department 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 have pledged our full cooperation and look forward to the opportunity to strengthen and enhance our program through this assessment process.”

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

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

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