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Harvard Law School has agreed to revise its sexual harassment and assault policies and to review sexual harassment complaints dating to the 2012-2013 school year after U.S. education officials found the school in violation of federal law, officials announced Tuesday.
Under the voluntary resolution agreement, Harvard Law will also notify students and employees about their right to file complaints and how to do so; pursue the criminal process in sexual violence cases; and submit sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints to the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights.
The department investigated and determined that the school was in violation of Title IX requirements and did not appropriately respond to two student sexual assault complaints. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination and affects federal education funding.
"In one instance, the law school took over a year to make its final determination and the complainant was not allowed to participate in this extended appeal process, which ultimately resulted in the reversal of the initial decision to dismiss the accused student and dismissal of the complainant's complaint," the department said.
Harvard spokesman Alvin Powell referred to a statement posted on the law school's website that said the university has already made many of the changes agreed to in the resolution.
"Harvard University and Harvard Law School are deeply committed to fostering a campus climate that is free of sexual harassment, including sexual violence," the statement said.
The statement said "... over the past two years, Harvard not only adopted a new university-wide policy on sexual and gender-based harassment but also launched a task force to recommend ways to more effectively prevent gender-based discrimination, including sexual assault; added new resources to focus on prevention and supporting those who have experienced sexual assault; and announced plans to conduct a campus climate survey."
The statement said the law school has also adopted procedures that reflect its distinct mission.
The U.S. Education Department announced in May that Harvard Law and Harvard College, the university's undergraduate school, were among 55 colleges nationwide that faced federal investigations over their handling of sexual assault complaints.
The agreement with the law school does not resolve a still-pending Title IX investigation of Harvard College and its response to sexual assault of undergraduate students.
"I am very pleased to bring to a close one of our longest-running sexual violence investigations, and I congratulate Harvard Law School for now committing to comply with Title IX and immediately implement steps to provide a safe learning environment for its students," said Catherine Lhamon, the education department's assistant secretary for civil rights.
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