A branch of the Department of Education, the Office of Civil Rights made a 3-day visit to St. Cloud State University, following a complaint to the Department of Education by an SCSU student. The complaint involved a sexual assault allegation made by the student. The student then filed a complaint with the Department of Education referring to St. Cloud State’s investigation about the matter. All the persons involved in the investigation as well as the complaint have been and will remain confidential until the investigation by the Office of Civil Rights is complete.
When complaints are filed with the Department of Education, the Office of Civil rights gets involved, depending on what the case pertains. Title IX also plays a factor in this case due to subpart A and B, which focus on sexual violence and sexual assault. The department focuses many of its efforts on investigating St. Cloud State, as well as other universities’ procedures when dealing with sexual assault and Title IX.
“The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights has had the responsibility to investigate Title IX violations for a longtime, but its only been in the last several years that they have really taken it a lot more seriously,” said Judith Siminoe, an adviser to President Earl Potter.
“Years went by when they didn’t do investigations that brought them [Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights] to campuses. In April of 2011, the department issued what they call a ‘Dear Colleague Letter’ which is a letter to all of the schools that get federal financial aid that says, ‘here’s our guidance on how we’re interpreting law and regulation, and the standard that we are going to hold you to.’ In that ‘Dear Colleague’ letter they let everybody know that they are very focused on sexual assaults,” said Siminoe.
During the Office of Civil Rights visit, members of the department held their own investigation about the complaint made against St. Cloud State University, with the main focus pertaining to Title IX compliance. The Office of Civil Rights uses multiple methods for obtaining information for their investigation, including holding open interviews with students about St. Cloud State’s compliance with the Title IX as well as gather other information through data requests and on site visits to make their determination on whether or not St. Cloud State, or other universities are acting in compliance with Title IX.
In a statement released by the Office of Civil Rights, the department clearly stated that “opening the investigation no way implies that the Office of Civil Rights has made any determination on the merits of the case.”
The statement goes on to say, “[The] Office of Civil Rights will collect and analyze all relevant evidence before making a determination with respect to allegations of civil rights noncompliance. Should the investigation reveal evidence of noncompliance, the Office of Civil Rights will attempt to negotiate an agreement with St. Cloud State University to address the compliance issues. For cases in which the Office of Civil rights obtains a resolution agreement, the resolution agreement must remedy the allegations and issues investigated and address the Office of Civil Right’s compliance concerns.”
Nothing has been released yet, as to whether or not the Office of Civil Rights investigation has led the department to believe that Title IX incompliance has occurred.