Departments of Justice and Education Reach Settlement to Address and Prevent Sexual Assault and Harassment of Students at the University of Montana in Missoula
The Department of Justice and the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights obtained a comprehensive resolution agreement today with the University of Montana-Missoula in Missoula, Mont., to ensure that it responds swiftly and effectively to allegations of sexual assault and harassment by students. In May 2012, the United States launched a comprehensive review of the university's handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints over a three-year period, as well as its policies, procedures, training and student education efforts. The Department of Justice today also obtained a separate agreement with the university to resolve allegations that the university's campus police force, the Office of Public Safety (OPS), discriminated against women by failing to adequately respond to reports of on-campus sexual assault.
The two agreements announced today resolve both of the United States' investigations of the university: under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which both prohibit sex discrimination in education programs, including sexual assault and harassment, and the Department of Justice’s investigation of the university’s campus police under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, and the anti-discrimination provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. The Department of Justice continues to seek resolution in its investigations of the Missoula Police Department and the Missoula County Attorney's Office for their alleged failure to adequately respond to complaints of sexual assault.
The first agreement details specific steps the university will take to:
- Revise the university's policies, procedures and investigative practices to provide a grievance procedure that ensures prompt and equitable resolution of sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations;
- Adequately investigate and respond to allegations of retaliation by students who have alleged sexual assault;
- Take sufficient effective action to fully eliminate a hostile environment based on sex, prevent its recurrence and address its effects;
- Ensure that the individuals designated to coordinate its Title IX efforts receive adequate training and coordinate these efforts effectively; and
- Revise the university's notice of nondiscrimination to adequately inform students that sex discrimination is prohibited.
The university's separate agreement with the Department of Justice resolving the investigation of the university's OPS requires that the university:
- Implement or revise policies, provide training and change practices to improve its response to sexual assault, including combating gender bias;
- Work with an independent monitor, community-based organizations and other stakeholders, to develop and implement the reforms described in the agreement and to evaluate OPS' success in effecting meaningful reform;
- Demonstrate that its implementation of the agreement has eliminated a pattern or practice of constitutional violations and that it has put in place systems and oversight that will prevent patterns or practices of unconstitutional conduct from recurring; and
- Develop procedures for gathering and analyzing data to assess the incidence and outcomes of reports of sexual assault.
The university anticipates that it will achieve compliance with this agreement within two years.
"For students to feel safe and welcome on college campuses, sexual assault and harassment must be swiftly and effectively addressed," said Jocelyn Samuels, Principal Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. "We applaud the university for its cooperation and for taking the steps necessary to maintain a safe learning environment for all students. These agreements provide a blueprint for colleges and universities across the country to take effective steps to prevent and address sexual assault and harassment on their campuses."
"Through these agreements, President Engstrom and the University of Montana staff have embraced change, not the status quo–they are problem solvers. They are to be commended for developing and implementing a plan to resolve safety issues at the university. The agreements entered into today, between the United States and the University of Montana, when fully implemented, will ensure that a safe living and learning environment will exist at the university where our children will be well educated, nurtured and where they will be allowed to achieve their full potential in a wholesome academic setting," said U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana Michael W. Cotter.
"Sexual harassment and sexual violence exact a devastating toll on students and interfere with their ability to learn in environments that are safe and free from discrimination. The Department of Education expects that today's resolution agreement will foster a safer environment and one that gives all students the chance to succeed at the University of Montana," said Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, Seth Galanter.
The prevention of sex-based discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Offices. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt. Additional information about the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Montana is available on its website at www.justice.gov/usao/mt. The enforcement of Title IX is also a top priority of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Additional information about the Office for Civil Rights is available on its website at www.ed.gov/ocr/.