News

Feds close sex-discrimination investigation at Stanford University

Four separate Office for Civil Rights cases remain open

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has "administratively closed" one of five investigations into violations of federal gender-equity law Title IX at Stanford University, an Education Department spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

The federal agency closed the investigation on Sept. 30 as a result of a lawsuit the complainant, a former male Stanford student, filed earlier this year alleging that the university discriminated against him on the basis of sex.

The lawsuit identifies the man as "John Doe" and the female Stanford student his lawyers say falsely accused him of sexual assault as "Jane Smith," but the details of the suit closely mirror the very public case of former Stanford student Leah Francis. In June 2014, Francis publicly challenged the university’s handling of her report that another Stanford student, her ex-boyfriend, had sexually assaulted her off campus in their hometown of Juneau, Alaska, over winter break on Jan. 1, 2014 -- the same location and date referenced in Doe's lawsuit, among other details.

The Office for Civil Rights can administratively close a case if the same allegations have been filed by the complainant against the same recipient with state or federal court, according to the agency’s Case Processing Manual. Following the end of court proceedings, an OCR complaint can be re-filed within 60 days "if there has been no decision on the merits or settlement of the complaint allegations," the manual reads.

The Office for Civil Rights continues to investigate four separate complaints filed by Stanford students, including Francis. Two other complaints were filed

by two female students who said they were sexually assaulted by the same male student. The Office for Civil Rights opened its most recent investigation into a fifth complaint this April.

Brad Hayward, senior director of strategic communications for Stanford, said the university was notified on Friday, Oct. 7, about the case’s closure. No action is required on Stanford’s part as a result, he said, adding that "we continue to work cooperatively with OCR on the other cases."

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture ongoing coverage sexual-assault issues at Stanford University. To view it, go to storify.com/paloaltoweekly.

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