WWU under investigation over handling of sexual abuse complaint

Western Washington University is under federal investigation for an alleged violation over the handling of a sexual abuse complaint, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights confirmed Wednesday, April 29.

Western joins a list of 108 other colleges in the country currently facing a Title IX investigation for possible violations of federal law regarding sexual violence or harassment. Two other colleges in the state — Washington State University and Whitman College — are already under investigation for Title IX violations.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, and all institutions receiving federal funds must comply with Title IX.

Western announced the investigation on the school’s website Wednesday.

“The university welcomes this investigation as it will provide us with an additional opportunity to review and to learn and at the same time to show Western’s commitment to providing a safe campus for all as we strive to serve as a model for higher education,” said WWU spokesperson Paul Cocke in a statement.

The U.S. Department of Education would not disclose any details of the investigation Wednesday. The Office of Civil Rights may open investigations because of a complaint received by the department or as part of a compliance review.

The department released a list of 55 institutions with open sexual violence investigations on May 1, 2014, in an effort to “bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said in the press release.

That list has grown to 109 colleges and 119 cases as of April 29.

A college’s appearance on the list does not indicate it has violated the law, only that there is an open investigation.