U.S. Dept. of Education investigating Liberty University’s handling of sexual assault claims

Liberty University's Freedom Tower.
Liberty University's Freedom Tower.((Source: Liberty University))
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 4:31 PM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Federal agents were reportedly on Liberty University’s campus this week along with the launch of an investigation by the federal Department of Education into the school’s handling of reported sexual assaults.

Senator Tim Kaine expressed his call for justice to be served in the wakes of potential misconduct, saying,“I’m glad the Department of Education is investigating Liberty’s handling of sexual assault. I hope the Department looks into it thoroughly. As I’ve said, any campus policy that deters or discourages a survivor of sexual assault from speaking out and seeking justice is wrong. Students who bravely speak out deserve to be heard and to have their claims taken seriously.”

The independent, nonprofit investigative journalism outlet ProPublica says they reviewed an email from a DOE official who had reached out to Liberty student advocates to arrange meeting times this past week. A spokesperson for the agency declined comment, pointing to a policy not to discuss ongoing investigations.

Liberty said they are pledging “full cooperation” with the investigation in a statement to ProPublica.

This investigation by the DOE comes only days after a former Liberty University student filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging it failed to investigate rape allegations.

A sexual assault case involving a Liberty University student-athlete and a former student also triggered a countersuit last week from a man named in the original lawsuit filed in November 2021 that also accused Liberty University of Title IX violations.

Among the accusations that have been attached to the school by different reports is a community that fostered students who came forward to sign forms acknowledging they could be in violation of Liberty’s moral code of conduct, “The Liberty Way,” that would effectively admit they were in the wrong for even putting themselves in that situation if it was at a party with alcohol, for example.

Other students reported being able to pray rather than report assault.

“Liberty University welcomes the U.S. Department of Education’s review of our Clery Act compliance program,” the school’s statement to ProPublica reads. The federal Clery Act requires schools to educate students who report sexual assaults about the capability of going to law enforcement and to aid in that process, if necessary.

The school was also sued by former spokesperson Scott Lamb, alleging Title IX violations and that he was fired as retaliation. Liberty went to court in December with a countersuit requesting, among other things, that Lamb produce and return documents they say are their property.

Liberty University had pledged in November 2021 to launch an “independent and comprehensive review” of the school office responsible for handling discrimination and abuse.

A Liberty spokesperson released the following statement to WDBJ7 regarding the investigation by the Department of Education:

“Liberty University welcomes the U.S. Department of Education’s review of our Clery Act compliance program.  We have pledged our full cooperation and look forward to the opportunity to strengthen and enhance our program through this assessment process.  We have also committed to work collaboratively with the Department to address any potential compliance gaps identified through the review.  The University supports and embraces both the letter and the 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.’ Our Clery Compliance Officer, in the Office of Equity and Compliance, works closely with the Liberty University Police Department and campus partners to prioritize campus safety and fulfill the requirements of the Clery Act.  More information about our Clery Act Compliance Program, including our most recent Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, is available here: https://www.liberty.edu/police/campus-safety-and-security/.”

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