Jean Gazis Christina Brandt-Young
New York, NY, May 22, 2014 – Today, Legal Momentum announced that it has filed administrative charges under Title IX and the Clery Act with the federal Department of Education against Brown University in connection with Brown’s failure to expel a student whom it had found responsible for nonconsensual sexual misconduct involving penetration, violent physical force, or injury of a fellow student.
Lena Sclove, while a student at Brown, was sexually assaulted and strangled by another student in August 2013. She filed a sexual misconduct complaint with the Brown administration, and after a hearing, a school disciplinary panel found that the respondent was responsible for “actions that result in or can be reasonably expected to result in physical harm to a person or persons” and “sexual misconduct that includes one or more of the following: penetration, violent physical force, or injury,” among other violations of the Standards of Student Conduct.
Despite the panel’s recommendation that the respondent be suspended for two years, the Senior Associate Dean for Student Life overruled Brown's own disciplinary panel and imposed instead a suspension of only one year. Ms. Sclove and her family appealed, expressing that she did not feel safe continuing her studies with the current sanction, and pointing out that strangulation is potentially life-threatening and that many rapists are serial rapists. However, Brown’s administration denied her appeal, stating that the length of the suspension imposed was “reasonably consistent with precedent in similar cases.”
“Even after finding the respondent responsible for violent sexual misconduct charges, Brown failed to impose a real sanction or to take appropriate measures to ensure Lena’s safety and those of others on campus. By imposing a mere one year suspension, the University minimized the respondent’s violent conduct and the serious injuries that he inflicted on Lena,” said Carol Robles-Román, President and CEO of Legal Momentum.
Ms. Sclove filed her Title IX and Clery complaints to ask that the Department of Education investigate and work with Brown to ensure that students are protected by effective, fair disciplinary systems. Ms. Sclove’s complaint is expected to start such an investigation.
Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded programs and activities. Under Title IX, colleges and universities play a crucial role in preventing and responding to sexual assault in schools and on college campuses. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights’s 2011 “Dear Colleague Letter” regarding student-on-student sexual harassment and sexual violence recognizes that a single sexual assault can create a hostile environment for students. Title IX requires schools to take immediate action to eliminate the hostile environment created by the assault, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. The Clery Act is a federal law that requires, among other reporting requirements, that schools develop and distribute a statement of policy that informs students of the importance of preserving evidence of criminal sexual assault, and of their option to notify appropriate law enforcement authorities.
Brown violated Title IX when it failed to issue an adequate sanction and failed to ensure that its decision-makers had adequate training and knowledge regarding sexual violence and related offenses, such as strangulation. Brown violated the Clery Act when it directed Ms. Sclove to a health facility that was unequipped to preserve evidence of strangulation or assault, and failed to make clear that she could file both a student misconduct complaint and a criminal complaint.
“Title IX and Clery Act protocols have to translate into victim-centered assistance that serves students in real time,” said Christina Brandt-Young, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Momentum.
“We hope that the Department of Education will use its expertise and investigative process to help Brown become a place where all survivors are made aware of their legal options and are fully supported following an assault,” Ms. Sclove said.
The full text of the complaints can be accessed on Legal Momentum’s web site at: http://www.legalmomentum.org/resources/title-ix-administrative-complaint-against-brown-university and http://www.legalmomentum.org/resources/clery-administrative-complaint-against-brown-university .
About Legal Momentum
Legal Momentum is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1970 to advance the rights of women across the nation by using the power of the law and creating innovative public policy in three broad areas: economic justice, freedom from gender-based violence, and equality under the law. Successful initiatives include judicial education programs on the realities of sexual assault, domestic violence, and their intersection; successful advocacy for the Violence Against Women Act and for expanded protections for Native American and other survivors of violence in its 2013 reauthorization; and representing women who have been subjected to workplace pregnancy and gender discrimination with precedent-setting litigation. For more information, visit www.legalmomentum.org.