Legal group's director questions Oklahoma State University's handling of alleged sexual assaults
Oklahoma State University officials' claim that federal student privacy laws prevented them from notifying police about a series of possible sexual assaults is unfounded, the director of a nonprofit legal assistance group said.
Videoview all videos
Photoview all photos
NewsOK Related Articles
Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said his organization often looks into cases where colleges and universities clamp down on transparency while citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA.
Although those issues are fairly routine, LoMonte said he thinks OSU's claims are particularly indefensible.
“This one belongs in a class all by itself,” he said.
Stillwater police are investigating a series of alleged sexual assaults involving the FarmHouse fraternity.
Nathan Micheal Cochran, 22, a former member of the fraternity, faces three complaints of sexual battery involving two male OSU students.
OSU officials learned of the allegations Nov. 12, when several male students told officials they'd been sexually assaulted. University officials never contacted police about the matter, but instead held student conduct hearings against Cochran. Those hearings concluded Nov. 30. Cochran was suspended for three years beginning at the end of the fall semester and ordered to have no contact with any of the students who made complaints against him.
Police opened an investigation into the sexual assault cases Dec. 7 after a reporter from the campus newspaper contacted the department with questions about the incidents, said Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson.
That investigation began 31/2 weeks after OSU officials became aware of the incident.
OSU officials have maintained that FERPA requirements wouldn't have allowed them to turn over information about the assault allegations to police. But LoMonte said he doesn't think that's the case.
“The reliance on that is so frivolous that it really calls into question whether they could possibly believe that themselves,” LoMonte said.
The act includes several exceptions that might have allowed OSU officials to turn over information to police, LoMonte said. Among those provisions is one that says the law doesn't prohibit officials from notifying police about possible crimes on campus.
But Gary Clark, OSU's vice president and general counsel, said that provision doesn't override the requirement that the university protect the identities of the victims. University officials could have given Cochran's identity to police immediately after the hearings concluded Nov. 30. Clark said he didn't think that information would have been useful to police.
See our commenting and posting policy.
News Photo Galleriesview all
- 14605Oklahoma tornadoes: The 'Big Dog,' the little boy and the hug that triumphs over tragedy
- 9594Finding Addyson – One family's struggle in the Moore tornado
- 8537Oklahoma tornadoes: Cost, custom keep basements scarce
- 8009Oklahoma tornadoes: Plaza Towers Elementary School teacher shoved students into bathroom as wall collapsed
- 6980Oklahoma tornadoes: Woman meets the military officer who shared the clothes off his back
- 6486Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, Vince Gill to join Blake Shelton at "Healing in the Heartland" Oklahoma tornado benefit
- 6299Story behind the photo: Family members describe desperate search for one another after EF5 twister