L.A. college hires ex-sex crimes prosecutors for review of policies

April 19, 2013 at 11:12 AM
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LOS ANGELES, April 19 (UPI) -- Occidental College has hired two former sex crimes prosecutors to review the school's handling of sexual abuse cases, school officials in Los Angeles said.

The university's review, announced Thursday, came shortly after a group of Occidental College students, faculty and alumni filed a civil rights complaint, alleging that the school did not properly investigate sexual assault claims, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In the complaint, filed Thursday with the U.S. Department of Education, attorney Gloria Allred alleged 37 students were "raped, sexually assaulted, battered, harassed or retaliated against for speaking out against sexual violence" at the college since 2009. The complaint also alleged that the college discourages reporting instances of sexual abuse and proceeding with criminal or administrative action against alleged perpetrators.

"Some students were discouraged from filing a formal complaint, while others were not informed of their rights," said Caroline Heldman, chairwoman of Occidental's politics department, who joined Allred and others at a news conference to announce the complaint. "In some cases the college chose to let perpetrators back on campus after they had been found responsible for nonconsensual sexual intercourse."

University officials said the college has taken steps to making the campus a safer place for all students, including updated sexual misconduct policies and procedures in 2010, adding that it still has room for improvement.

"We readily admit that Oxy has more work to do and are vigilantly ensuring our continual progress," the college said in a statement.

The college said it has hired Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Gomez, both former sex crimes prosecutors, to conduct a review of the college's policies and practices regarding alleged sexual abuse.

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