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Legal group’s director questions Oklahoma State University’s handling of alleged sexual assaults

BY SILAS ALLEN Published: December 16, 2012
/articleid/3737999/1/pictures/1908357">Photo - Nathan Micheal Cochran
Nathan Micheal Cochran

“What would the police be able to do with that information?” Clark said. “Nothing, as far as I can tell.”

In any case, university officials have said they didn’t understand at the time that they would have been allowed to turn over Cochran’s name to police.

Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education, said FERPA misunderstandings are fairly common.

When the department receives a complaint that a school has violated FERPA restrictions, the department writes to the institution, describing the allegation and asking for a response. He said that typically school officials misunderstood requirements and agree to comply with the law in the future.

The only way a school could face penalties for FERPA violations is if officials don’t agree to stop violating the act in the future, Bradshaw said. In that case, he said, the department may levee penalties, including cutting off federal education funds. No college or university has ever been penalized for violating FERPA, he said.

Other questions

LoMonte isn’t the first to question OSU’s handling of the alleged assaults. Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson said Thursday he was “stunned” by OSU’s explanation for the decision not to notify police — in particular, by university officials’ contention that Cochran no longer posed a threat after being suspended from the university.

Dickerson said that after five students told university officials they had been sexually assaulted, university officials could have turned the case over to police through an exception in the law.

“I would certainly draw the conclusion that one suspect who had sexually assaulted five young men might be considered a threat to other students,” Dickerson said.

On Thursday, OSU President Burns Hargis asked Andy Lester, chairman of the Board of Regents for Oklahoma State University and the A&M Colleges, to review the university’s handling of the situation through a task force that was set up over the summer. The task force was established to review policies after the sexual misconduct scandal that rocked Penn State University last year.

“We cannot leave any doubt that we are indeed properly and appropriately handling sexual misconduct allegations, and we must determine if we need to amend our policies and procedures to more effectively and efficiently handle these types of matters in the future,” Hargis said.

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