Cecelia Mason Published

Two West Virginia Colleges Are on U.S. Education Department Investigation List


Two West Virginia colleges are on a list the U.S. Department of Education released Thursday that includes 55 schools under investigation for possibly violating federal law in how they handle sexual violence and harassment complaints.

Bethany College in the northern panhandle and the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg are both on the list.

School of Osteopathic Medicine Director of Marketing & Public Relations Denise Getson in an email response to a request for comment sent the following statement:

“In fall 2012, WVSOM received a student's report of alleged sexual misconduct which had occurred off-campus. WVSOM conducted an internal investigation at that time. WVSOM is cooperating fully with the OCR investigation of whether a Title IX infraction has occurred.”

Bethany also issued an email response to the college’s inclusion on the list. Director of Communications Rebecca Rose said Bethany first learned of the complaint filed by the Department of Education this week. It is based on an alleged sexual assault that was reported in the fall of 2013.

Rose said the assault was investigated through the college internally and by local and state police. According to Rose evidence was presented to a Brooke County grand jury which failed to issue an indictment.

”We feel strongly that we have fully complied with both the spirit and the letter of the law as it relates to both the Clery Act and The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act,” Rose said. “The College always reserves the right to reopen any investigation if new evidence is provided.  Because the safety of our students is our priority, we take any allegations of sexual assault very seriously.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education news release, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights is trying to make its work more transparent and hopes releasing the list will spur community dialog about the issue.

The release says the colleges are being investigated under Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits institutions that accept federal money from discriminating based on sex.

The release says some of the schools on the list are under investigation because the Office for Civil Rights has received complaints and in some cases the office initiated the investigation as part of compliance reviews.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon emphasizes that a college’s appearance on the list does not indicate it is violating or has violated the law.

The Education Department plans to update the list regularly. The department also released new guidelines earlier this week outlining the responsibilities under Title IX of every school that receives federal money.