Florida colleges under investigation for handling of campus sex assault cases

A new report reveals more than 300 open investigations of sexual violence at colleges and universities across the country.

Of the 223 schools being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regarding the way they’ve handled instances of sex abuse, five are in Florida. Those schools are Full Sail University, Stetson University, the University of South Florida, the University of Miami and Florida State University.

Olympic Champion Nancy Hogshead-Makar is a leading Title IX expert and a survivor of sexual assault herself. She said since Title IX passed more than 40 years ago, the Department of Education has continuously clarified guidelines for handling alleged instances of sexual assault at colleges.

Hogshead-Makar tells Action News Jax, “What the Department of Education is saying is that you need to treat sexual assault the same way that you treat drug dealing and bomb threats.”

She said there are several reasons why schools deviated from those instructions and most of the time, money is involved.

“Either the victim or the perpetrator is probably going to leave school, or is going to be upset with the decision, they may take legal action on both sides, so it’s very contentious,” Hogshead-Makar said.

While Republicans in Congress feel the department has exceeded its authority, Hogshead-Makar said student victims deserve a proper investigation. Those who are skeptical of the department’s actions hope enforcement policies will be re-evaluated when President-elect Donald Trump takes office.