Local Colleges Underreporting Sex Assaults - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Local Colleges Underreporting Sex Assaults

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Amid federal investigations of their handling of campus sexual assaults, USC and Occidental College have disclosed that they underreported the number of cases in recent years, a potential violation of federal law.

At USC, officials indicated they had not reported 13 accounts of sexual assaults to federal officials for 2010 and 2011, bringing the total for those years to 39, the Los Angeles Times reported. Occidental acknowledged that it had failed to include 24 reports during that period, bringing the total to 36, according to the newspaper.

The disclosures could lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties for each school under the federal Clery Act, the 1990 law that requires schools to report campus crime statistics to the Department of Education, The Times reported.

The law, which stemmed from a 1986 rape and killing on a Pennsylvania campus, is intended to give the public an accurate view of campus safety. The law covers criminal allegations, regardless of whether they are reported to police or adjudicated in court.

Over the last two years, women at USC, Occidental and college campuses across the country have organized -- mostly through social media -- to file complaints with the Department of Education alleging that administrators discouraged them from reporting sexual assaults or downplayed the severity of the attacks, according to The Times.

Occidental is under investigation for violations of the Clery Act.

Students at USC have filed a complaint alleging Clery violations that federal investigators have yet to act on. Both schools are also under investigation for possible violations of Title IX, a federal antidiscrimination law that requires colleges to impartially investigate sexual assaults, The Times reported.

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