According to a report, the US Department of Education (DoE) is investigating Liberty University’s handling of allegations of sexual assault and rape between students.
DoE agents were reportedly dispatched to the Liberty University campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, this week to begin questioning students about assault claims and the subsequent handling of those claims. ProPublica reported on Friday.
Legal experts and lawmakers had called on the Education Department to launch a review of Liberty University, amid concerns that it acted in violation of the Clery Act, which requires colleges to tell students about the option to go to college. police when reporting a sexual assault.
Instead, the students were allegedly encouraged to sign forms saying they might have violated a moral code of conduct called “The Liberty Way,” and as ProPublica found last year, some were told to “pray” after reporting the assault to the institution.
While the institution has denied such claims, US Senator Tim Kaine said in a statement Wednesday that he welcomed the news of the Department of Education’s review of federally funded Liberty University.
“Students at Liberty, or any other university, need to believe that if something bad happens to them, there is a place they can go,” the Virginia Democrat said. “[And that] They will be taken seriously and then efforts will be made immediately to identify if someone is a perpetrator and then take action against them.”
The university, which was founded by evangelical pastor Jerry Falwell, also said it “welcomes” the DoE review in a statement and will cooperate with the review. the independent has approached both the university and the US Department of Education 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 improve our program through this evaluation process.”
He continued: “We have also committed to working collaboratively with the Department to address any potential compliance gaps identified through the review. The University supports and embraces both the letter and 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 sexual assault claims, the WSLS reported Friday.