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Harvard Law School has received comment from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on its new procedures for handling cases of alleged sexual harassment and will implement those procedures “as soon as possible,” according to Robb London, a Law School spokesperson.
The Law School faculty voted to adopt a set of new procedures governing its approach to investigating sexual harassment allegations in December, moving to break from Harvard’s University-wide Title IX procedures, which last year established a central office to hear student complaints across schools.
The feedback from OCR on the Law School’s new procedures focused mainly on clarifications and suggestions but not on procedural objections, according to London. The Law School is now revising its procedures for final approval from the federal government, in keeping with a resolution agreement forged after the Law School was found in violation of Title IX late last year.
“There were no objections to the procedures—just a few suggestions and requested clarifications of the text in a couple of places, which we have now made,” London wrote in an email Monday.
The Law School has created a new draft reflecting OCR’s suggestions and sent it to OCR for final review and sign-off, according to London. He declined to share a copy of OCR’s feedback and would not specify what parts of the procedures the government asked the Law School to clarify.
As part of its resolution agreement with the government following the Title IX decision, the Law School submitted its new procedures to OCR for review. The new Law School procedures significantly break from the University’s central Title IX framework; instead of sending complaints to Harvard’s central Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution, under the new procedures, the Law School will conduct its own sexual harassment investigations in-house.
The Law School faculty adopted the new procedures after faculty members publicly declared their discontent with the new University-wide sexual harassment framework. Twenty-eight Law School professors penned an open letter in The Boston Globe in October, arguing that Harvard’s policy and procedures lack due process and are biased against the accused. Some time later, Dean of the Law School Martha L. Minow appointed a committee, chaired by Law School professor John Coates, to create a new set of Title IX procedures specific to the Law School.
Minow and Coates declined to comment on OCR’s feedback on the procedures.
Twenty of the 28 Professors who signed the Globe letter also actively lobbied the faculty committee for certain procedural changes last fall. They circulated a memo requesting, among other points, that the Law School investigate its own sexual harassment complaints and offer legal counsel to all involved parties.
According to a statement on the Law School’s website, students will be notified when the new procedures are implemented.
—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.
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