A second federal investigation has opened into allegations of sexual assault at the University of Montana, already the focus of a U.S. Department of Justice review.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights “will examine whether the university responded promptly and appropriately to complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence,” a DOE spokesman said Tuesday.
The agency received a complaint about UM in January, and has been assessing whether a formal investigation was warranted. That assessment recently was completed and the full investigation – known as a compliance review – now is under way, the spokesman said.
The January complaint alleges harassment by members of the University of Montana football team.
“I was told they would be ‘trained.’ Now we have rapes, gang rapes, cover ups,” the person who filed the complaint wrote. The Missoulian received a copy of the complaint last month after filing a request with the Department of Education under the Freedom of Information Act.
It names UM, the Grizzlies football team, UM President Royce Engstrom, former President George Dennison, as well as an athletic director and football coach. Those last two names, as well as that of the complainant, were redacted from the copy of the complaint supplied to the Missoulian. Engstrom fired football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletic director Jim O’Day in March, saying only that a change was needed.
The DOE’s Office of Civil Rights review will check compliance with Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
The review “will evaluate the university’s compliance with Title IX regarding whether the university’s policies and procedures, and the university’s implementation of those, ensure the elimination of sexual harassment and sexual violence, appropriately respond to such harassment and violence, and eliminate the hostile environment and its effects that can result from such harassment,” the spokesman said.
The January complaint said the last act of discrimination occurred on Dec. 21, 2011, but also said “there are additional issues now.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced its own investigation into how sexual assault allegations are handled by UM, its campus police, the Missoula County Attorney’s Office and the Missoula Police Department. That investigation will review 80 sexual assault cases in Missoula over the past three years.
The two federal agencies will coordinate their investigations.
Neither UM Vice President Jim Foley nor Engstrom, who returned Tuesday afternoon from Australia, returned a call seeking comment.
Reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268, firstname.lastname@example.org or @CopsAndCourts on Twitter.