Harvard Law School, in its mishandled responses to alleged sexual harassments including sexual assault, repeatedly violated Title IX federal requirements, the U.S. Department of Education says.
In one instance, the school took more than a year in resolving a complaint of sexual harassment and barred the complaint from taking part in an appeal process, the department said in a report on its investigation.
Policies at Harvard Law School were not in compliance with Title IX's federal requirements directing schools to ensure a "prompt and equitable response" to complaints of sexual harassment in at least two cases, the department's Office of Civil Rights said in a release.
The school has "entered into a resolution agreement" with the Department of Education and established a complete overhaul of its procedures and policies, officials said.
"I am very pleased to bring to close one of our longest-running sexual violence investigations, and I congratulate Harvard Law School for now committing to comply with Title IX," said Catherine Lhamon, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights.
Harvard Law School will now embrace the "preponderance of the evidence" standard for assaying guilt in sexual harassment cases; previously, the school has been applying a more stringent "clear and convincing" evidence standard.
Also as part of the agreement, the school will conduct Title IX training for staff looking into complaints, and incidents will be reported regularly to the Department of Education.
While Harvard Law School has resolved the Title IX investigation, a similar investigation of Harvard College -- the undergraduate component of Harvard -- is still being conducted, officials said.
Harvard University has enacted new sexual assault policies using the "preponderance" standard and engaged professionals to investigate allegations of sexual assault.
"As the conversation about sexual assault at colleges and universities spread to campuses across the nation, Harvard recognized that, like many peer institutions around the country, we could and should do more," Harvard said in a statement.
One hundred cases of sexual assault have been reported at Harvard in the last 3 years, and the school is among 55 universities the Department of Education has been investigating in the past year for potential Title IX violations.
The department is still investigating a number of other schools in Massachusetts for potential violations, including UMass-Dartmouth, UMass-Amherst, Boston University, Brandeis, Berklee College, Emerson College and Hampshire College.
Not everyone at Harvard Law School was happy with the resolution, with a number of professors complaining that the new policies "lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process."
Safeguards for students who face accusations are lacking in the new polices and procedures, suggests law professor Elizabeth Bartholet.
"It's very important to make sure that we're not improperly disciplining students and, in the law school, make sure that we're not destroying somebody's future career based on facts that are simply wrong," she said.