If Shannon is found culpable after the process runs its course, he faces sanctions that range from education and counseling to expulsion.
The U.S. Education Department issued what is known as the “Dear Colleague Letter” in April 2011 to school districts, college and universities around the country. The letter was written to plainly spell out institutional responsibility in sexual harassment cases.
The letter states that regardless of whether the harassed student files a complaint, the school “must promptly investigate to determine what occurred and then take appropriate steps to resolve the situation.”
Included in OU’s investigative report are text messages between the complainant and friends in which the woman claims she was raped, but didn’t want police involvement out of concern for the effect it would have on the football team and her sorority.
The Dear Colleague Letter goes on to say that “a law enforcement investigation does not relieve the school of its independent Title IX obligation to investigate the conduct.”
Shannon, a 21-year-old junior and Dallas native, was Oklahoma's leading tackler last season and has appeared in 25 career games over the past two seasons, with 15 starts.
He remains on the team’s official roster, but didn't practice Thursday, nor did he participate in Saturday's spring game. According to sources, Shannon is still in Norman and attending classes during the Title IX investigation.
“While this timeframe is going on, it is helpful when the school can impose some sort of interim measures to make sure the victim is protected, and that she has the ability to continue her educational experience and go to class, and not be in fear of running into her assailant,” Clune said.
The situation involving Shannon comes at a time when sexual assault and major college athletics are at the forefront of public consciousness because of ongoing allegations involving Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner.
Both the university and Tallahassee, Fla., police have been widely criticized for their perceived lackadaisical response to the accusations against Winston, who never faced criminal charges for an alleged attack in December 2012.
Winston’s accuser recently hired Clune and Baine Kerr, prominent Title IX attorneys who are investigating Florida State’s response to the allegations and could eventually bring a federal lawsuit against the university.
In a Thursday afternoon interview with The Oklahoman, Clune said he’s never worked a Title IX sexual harassment case with OU and was unfamiliar with its policies and procedures, but that in his experience, most schools don’t deal with similar situations properly.
“They almost all handle it poorly,” Clune said, “particularly if its athlete-related violence, and particularly if it’s the men’s revenue sports like basketball and football.”