Colleges, universities seeing rise in sexual assault claims, lawsuits
© Getty

Colleges and universities around the country are grappling with a rise in the number of reported sexual assault cases as well as lawsuits accusing schools of mishandling the complaints, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Journal reports that some schools facing an increasing number of lawsuits over the handling of such complaints are outsourcing investigations and hearings, while others are pushing for new dispute resolutions to avoid trial.

University officials told the newspaper that conflicting guidance from courts, the Obama administration and the Trump administration on battling sexual assault on campus have left schools confused over how to handle such claims.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The wind is blowing from 12 different directions and the ground is moving beneath our feet,” said Valery Richardson, an interim Title IX official at the University of Washington.

One school in New York hired retired judges to hear cases that previously would have been heard by professors.

“Obviously these [judges] are people well versed in content and due process,” added Rachel Pereira, an official at Vassar College. “Faculty said they didn’t feel comfortable in that role, this wasn’t in their wheelhouse.”

Richardson told the Journal that Title IX inquiries were up 54 percent at her school over the past two years.

Full federal data for schools across the country following 2015 was not immediately available, but statistics showed a trend of reported sexual assaults increasing in rate every year up to 2015.

David Karp, a sociology professor at Skidmore College, told the Journal that the actual number of sexual assaults could be higher, as many victims of sexual abuse find the Title IX process daunting and not worth the effort.

“The vast, vast, vast majority of students who have been sexually assaulted do not report it to anyone on campus, because they are not interested in that level of formal engagement or punishment,” Karp said.

“We have built a pretty massive Title IX adjudication system since 2011, and students simply are not availing themselves of it.”

Last month it was reported that Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosMelania Trump to host screening of 'Wonder' for National Bullying Prevention Month O'Rourke targets Cruz with several attack ads a day after debate Charter schools’ ‘Uberization’ of teaching profession hurts kids too MORE was working to release new rules regarding how universities handle sexual assault cases that would increase protections for accused students and decrease liability for educational institutions.

The agency refused to comment at the time, calling reports on the department's plans "premature."