OSU to review handling of sexual assault claims

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 14, 2012 at 9:21 pm •  Published: December 14, 2012
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"We respect the fact there remain questions, even nationally, relative to the correct interpretation of federal law requiring universities to establish an internal process and procedure to handle such allegations," he said.

Student body president Flint Holbrook, a senior from South Carolina, acknowledged that many students are second guessing the actions taken by school administrators, who had said they were concerned about student privacy under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

"There tends to be a general disappointment that police weren't notified, even though the university and Student Conduct (Education and Administration) went to the appropriate measures to give the alleged victims all the information on how to contact the police and who to contact," Holbrook said.

Michael Masinter, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said the school had two options under the privacy act that would've allowed it to report sexual assault claims: it could have gone to campus police directly or bypassed campus police and gone directly to the student body or to another law enforcement agency if it believed there was a safety emergency on campus.

"The first thing is that FERPA does not ever bar the university from reporting or contacting its local campus police for the purpose of investigating a potential violation of law," he said. "It doesn't bar them from contacting their local (authorities) to maintain the safety of the campus community."

Joey Senat, an Oklahoma State journalism professor and media law and First Amendment expert, said conduct review boards are not equipped to handle serious crimes.

"They're not qualified to investigate crimes, much less sexual assault investigations," Senat said. "You've got unqualified people meeting in secret over some serious crimes."

Lester, the Regents chairman, said Friday he wants the universities that fall under its governance to have "model policies, practices and procedures" for dealing with sexual misconduct.

"I hope one result of our work is to communicate we intend to provide an environment where students and staff are not afraid or hesitant to report violations, and violators will be held responsible," Lester said.

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Associated Press writer Sean Murphy contributed to this article from Oklahoma City.



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