WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Education has initiated an investigation into Georgetown University for its handling of sexual assault cases that go through its judicial process.
In a letter sent on April 18 to Georgetown President John DeGioia, the department asked for a legal justification for the university’s confidentiality policy.
The policy requires victims of crimes of violence and nonforcible sex offenses to sign an agreement prohibiting them from discussing the case with others. If they do not, university officials will not tell them what sanctions, if any, were taken against their assailant. Under the policy, if victims disclose those sanctions to others, they also could be disciplined.
The letter was in response to a joint complaint filed last month by the national campus safety organization, Security On Campus, and Georgetown student Kate Dieringer, who was told to sign a confidentiality agreement after she was raped her freshman year.
In the complaint, Dieringer claimed that the university violated her rights under the federal Clery Act.
The DOE has asserted that under the Clery Act, “when an institution determines that an accused student is an alleged perpetrator and has violated the institution rules, then there are no restrictions on disclosure or redisclosure of the final results of a disciplinary proceeding.”
University spokesperson Gloria Lacap said Georgetown takes very seriously both the safety and well being of all of its students and its responsibility to protect the privacy of student records.
“We are committed to maintaining the confidentiality of our student disciplinary system in full compliance with all applicable university policies and federal requirements,” she said.
Once Georgetown provides legal reasoning for its policy, the department will issue a final ruling on the complaints. If the policy is found to be illegal, Georgetown will be expected to bring it into compliance with the Clery Act.
The department said it will not release Georgetown’s response until a decision has been made in the investigation.