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December 30, 2014

The U.S. Department of Education has found Harvard Law School mishandled cases of sexual assault. The Department says the Law School did not appropriately respond to at least two student complaints.

In one of those cases, the Law School took over a year to make its final decision.

Catherine Lhamon heads the Department's civil rights division, and she says that delay thwarted students' equal opportunity to review or appeal decisions. Lhamon says Harvard also failed to properly train administrators handling sexual assault cases.

"Each of those is a significant concern for the safety of students and the message sent to students about the utility of coming to the Law School to complain," Lhamon says. "It's well past time for our schools to ensure all of our students are safe and able to learn appropriately on campus."

Related: Harvard Creates Central Office to Investigate Sexual Assault

The Law School has agreed to reopen old investigations and to conduct annual campus surveys to determine whether students feel safe.

After the Department publicly named nearly 90 schools under investigation, Harvard University changed its sexual assault policy on all of its campuses, effectively lowering the burden of proof to find someone guilty. 

Related: Harvard's Sexual Assault Policy Violates Rights of Accused, Profs Say

In a statement, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow said the Law School is deeply committed to creating a campus climate free of sexual harassment.

We will continue to build upon the work we have done in recent months. There will be surveys and discussion. I welcome and encourage your engagement and involvement as we do the important work of fostering a learning environment in which everyone is safe and free from sexual misconduct of any kind.

Title IX, increasing access and success, Harvard

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