Home Education The lawsuits against Liberty are prompting the Ed Department to investigate

The lawsuits against Liberty are prompting the Ed Department to investigate

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The lawsuits against Liberty are prompting the Ed Department to investigate

Liberty University is under fire, facing a number of allegations that for years it has misrepresented allegations of sexual violence, discouraged willing statements and discriminated against LGBTQ + students, even allegedly inciting some to undergo conversion therapy. The plaintiffs have filed three separate lawsuits against the university since July, raising alarm in the Department of Education.

Now the University of Freedom is under investigation on several fronts.

У the first lawsuit, filed by 12 women in July, the plaintiffs said they were refused to report cases of sexual violence or punished for violating the Freedom of Honor Code when they filed their complaints. They accuse Liberty of creating a dangerous environment and using a code of honor against them, focusing on student misconduct such as drinking and premarital sex rather than alleged sexual assault. The charges in this lawsuit span more than 15 years, starting in 2000.

The female plaintiffs filed the following lawsuits in November and end of April. Although the complaints differ from the original lawsuit, these complaints are remarkably similar: former students claim that Liberty failed to properly investigate allegations of sexual violence, instead focusing on women’s behavior and violations of the LU Code of Honor known as “The Way freedom. “

According to court documents, the women claim that they were threatened, harassed, beaten, used drugs, “brutally raped” and even, in one case, caught the perpetrator. The court documents also allege that the University of Liberty Police Department pressured the women to drop the claims, threatened to charge the applicant with false information and failed to properly investigate the incidents.

In addition to verifying compliance with the Claire Act in Liberty, last week the Department of Civil Rights’s Department of Education launched a separate investigation into a former student’s complaints that Liberty’s policies and practices discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Now the Evangelical University, founded by TV evangelist Jerry Folwell, is facing a series of investigations amid growing scrutiny over how it has allegedly misrepresented Chapter IX issues for years.

Clery Compliance Review

Despite numerous requests for comment, the University of Liberty has not responded to questions about the ongoing review of compliance with the Claire Act. The Claire Act requires colleges to inform victims of sexual violence about the possibility of reporting such actions to law enforcement, and requires colleges to disclose campus crime statistics and other relevant information related to campus security as a condition of participation in federal financial aid programs.

Freedom, however, provided Fr. statement to local TV channel WDBJ7: “The University of Liberty welcomes the U.S. Department of Education’s review of our Claire Law compliance program. We have pledged our full cooperation and look forward to the opportunity to strengthen and improve our program through this evaluation process. We are also committed to working with the Department to address any potential deficiencies in compliance identified during the review. The University upholds and accepts both the letter and the spirit of the Claire Act, which “provides students, staff and their families with accurate, complete and timely information on campus security to better inform future decisions”. Our Clery Compliance staff member, in the Office of Justice and Conservation, works closely with the University of Liberty Police Department and campus partners to prioritize campus security and comply with the requirements of the Clery Act. ”

Save 71, a group of open alumni who intend to reform Freedom, claimed that the Department of Education has twice visited the campus in recent weeks to interview staff. According to the alumni group, more than 70 employees are expected to be interviewed.

S. Daniel Carter, president of security consultants on educational campuses, notes that reviews of campus crime programs, as in Liberty, are rare and extremely demanding.

“In a review of the campus crime program, the United States Department of Education examines virtually every aspect of how a college or university prevents, responds to, and reports on campus crime,” Carter said. “They will request thousands and thousands of documents and interview potentially hundreds of officials and students. This is a very comprehensive process designed to assess not only the basics – are crimes properly reflected in statistics? But also are crimes treated in the way the institution says they will be in their Clery report? And that includes processing reports of sexual assault according to what they say they do and with what the federal clergy law requires. ”

Carter, a Title IX expert, said the Department of Education does not release exact figures on how many investigations are ongoing, but he believes it is no more than a dozen at a time.

“In order for the institution to be the center of attention as part of the review of the on-campus crime program, the allegations and concerns must be some of the most serious you can get,” Carter said.

While the Department of Education can impose fines of $ 62,689 for violations of the Claire Act for each violation found, Carter said the ultimate goal is not to punish, but to increase student safety. And if at least one of the many accusations against Freedom is true, this improvement is necessary.

“Ultimately, there must be a cultural shift,” he said. “Because as long as the point of view is that the victim is to blame, I don’t think any other changes will matter; no rules change, no personnel changes – profound cultural changes must take place. “

OCR investigation

Liberty has also ignored numerous requests for comment regarding the Civil Rights Bureau’s investigation into allegations of discrimination against students on sexual orientation.

The investigation, launched last week, stems from a group called the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, which aims to use civil rights lawsuits to combat institutions they see as discriminatory against LGBTQ + students. The REAP claims that religious institutions have declared “widespread discrimination, ill-treatment and ill-treatment” of LGBTQ + students.

Last year REAP sued the education departmentseeking to hold him accountable for granting religious exceptions to federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in higher education.

According to a copy of c investigative letter As shared by REAP, the Bureau of Civil Rights is examining whether “freedom discriminates against LGBTQ + students through its policies and practices, including the Statement on Sexuality and Relationships in the Code of Student Honor and the role of a campus group called Armor Bearers.” Former students argue that “Armadillos” is a program of conversion therapy.

“I am delighted that Liberty is (finally) being investigated for its conversion therapy program, a program that has been running for more than a decade,” said Luke Wilson, a former Liberty student and one of more than 30 plaintiffs in the REAP lawsuit. release. “As someone who survived a one-on-one conversion therapy program in Liberty and as someone who went to one of the group conversion therapy meetings on campus, I have since worked to raise awareness of this disgusting practice that has ruined the lives of countless amazing Liberts. students ”.

Cases of lawsuits

The only statement Liberty University filed Inside the higher ed came in response to a recent lawsuit filed on April 27, accusing LU of mistreating alleged sexual assault, treating a victim with “systematic intentional indifference” and retaliating against her. The lawsuit alleges that Liberty failed to investigate the incident and did not report the incident and did not provide services or housing as required by Section IX, which ultimately led the plaintiff to drop out and enroll in another college.

“The university has not considered the lawsuit and therefore refuses to give specific public comments on the lawsuit. The University of Freedom will, of course, consider these claims in court, ”a spokesman for the university, who declined to give his identity, said in an e-mail.

A spokesman shared LU President Jerry Prevot’s previous statements following an investigation that resulted in media coverage of complaints alleging that Liberty had let them down.

In one statement Preva wrote on October 26, 2021: “Freedom can never be abused to cover up offenses. Just as a Christian university we will remain steadfast in our commitment to cultivate a culture in our community of Freedom that values ​​God’s Word and accepts God’s principles for life. While the Path of Freedom should never be used to prevent victims from reporting offenses, we also believe that we should not choose between adopting our code of conduct as a Christian university and fulfilling our legal obligations under Section IX. . We can do both at the same time, and we will do it. “

Liberty also announced last November that it would begin an independent review of its Title IX processes and install additional cameras and other security features on campus. according to local media reports.

Months later, students say it’s all empty promises.

“There was radio silence on the part of the university,” said Hailey Wilkinson, a senior and member of the unrecognized Liberty Students Against Abuse.

Wilkinson said the university was not very prepared for an outside audit of its Title IX policies and processes, and that Preva rejected students’ demands to do better.

“Personally I have Jerry Prevot telling me to give him more time and stop pushing so hard,” Wilkinson said. “Obviously it hasn’t stopped and we won’t stop.”

Wilkinson believes the lack of transparency on the part of university officials has made many women feel free in Liberty.

Another student said she was sexually abused off-campus on April 29 and is currently under investigation, according to WSETlocal TV channel.

Virginia Senators Tim Kane and Mark Warner are both summoned to the education department investigate Liberty in November, when media coverage of allegations of sexual behavior drew close attention from Lynchburg University. Now that this is happening, both senators have said Inside the higher ed via e-mail statements that they welcome the investigation, and praised the courage of those who spoke out on the matter.

“I am pleased that the Department of Education is investigating a case of sexual violence by Liberty. I hope the Department will sort it out carefully, ”Kane wrote. “As I said, any campus policy that deters or hinders a person who has experienced sexual violence from speaking out and seeking justice is wrong. Students who speak courageously deserve to be heard and their grievances taken seriously. ”

A similar tone was issued by the Warner office.

“I am concerned about the accusations against the University of Freedom in incorrect reports of sexual harassment. For the past few months, I have called for accountability and action, ”Warner said. “I commend the Department of Education for launching an investigation into whether the University of Freedom has breached its legal and moral obligations to protect victims of attack. I expect the university to fully comply with the requirements and I will closely monitor the results of this investigation. I applaud the courage of the survivors for coming forward and fighting for the justice they owe. “

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