Liberty University facing federal investigation after claims it mishandled student sexual assault allegations

FILE PHOTO – Liberty University (SKY13)

Liberty University is facing a federal investigation after a long list of claims that the university mishandled sexual assault allegations.

A group called Save71 — which identifies itself as Liberty alumni, students, and faculty members seeking new leadership — says the U.S. Department of Education will be interviewing more than 70 Liberty employees.

The federal education agency would not provide information about the investigation, but Liberty acknowledged it in a statement Friday evening.

“I’m glad the Department of Education is investigating Liberty’s handling of sexual assault,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), who has been calling for an investigation for months. “I hope the Department looks into it thoroughly. As I’ve said, any campus policy that deters or discourages a survivor of sexual assault from speaking out and seeking justice is wrong. Students who bravely speak out deserve to be heard and to have their claims taken seriously.”

A Liberty spokesperson said the university welcomes the review.

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“Liberty University welcomes the U.S. Department of Education’s review of our Clery Act compliance program,” the Liberty spokesperson said in an email statement Friday. “We have pledged our full cooperation and look forward to the opportunity to strengthen and enhance our program through this assessment process. We have also committed to work collaboratively with the Department to address any potential compliance gaps identified through the review.”

That statement comes after several attempts to confirm an investigation was underway by the Department of Education since a lawsuit in July involving 12 women.

On Wednesday, another former Liberty University student filed a lawsuit saying she was raped by a fellow Liberty student. She said her report was mishandled as her alleged rapist was allowed to remain on campus and the university failed to put protective measures in place. The law firm representing the unnamed accuser said she lived in fear, which ultimately drove her out of the school.

RELATED: ‘Weaponization of the Liberty Way:’ LU punishes women reporting sex assaults, lawsuit says

There have been three lawsuits filed since July that detail a pattern of alleged cover-ups by the university and mistreatment of victims while pressuring them to remain silent or risk facing punishment under the university’s student code of conduct, The Liberty Way.

Liberty’s statement Friday says the university supports the Clery Act.

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“The University supports and embraces both the letter and the spirit of the Clery Act, which is ‘to provide students, employees and their families with accurate, complete and timely information about campus safety to better inform future decisions,’” the statement says. “Our Clery Compliance Officer, in the Office of Equity and Compliance, works closely with the Liberty University Police Department and campus partners to prioritize campus safety and fulfill the requirements of the Clery Act.”

SOURCE: WSET ABC 13 News – by Brandon Shulleeta and Cynthia Beasley