Feds make K State investigate off-campus rape accusation

The federal government is advising Kansas State University to investigate two allegations of off-campus sexual assault despite claims that harassment accusations would be better handled by law enforcement officials.

Kansas State currently has a policy not to investigate accusations of rape if the alleged incident occurred in off-campus housing.

However, the policy was called into question earlier this year when two Kansas State women sued the school over claims that it refused to look into their sexual assault accusations since both purportedly occurred off campus.

The two alleged victims, Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer, filed a federal lawsuit in April against their school on the grounds that it had violated Title IX regulations, The New York Times reports.

[RELATED: Sexual harassment trainings don’t work, feds admit]

Kansas State, though, continues to uphold its prior defense, arguing that it is not legally responsible under current university policy for reports of sexual assault that occur in spaces off campus.

Indeed, Congress has already considered legislation introduced by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) that would create a 30-day window for law enforcement to investigate allegations before schools are allowed to intervene, citing college administrators’ lack of legal knowledge and expertise in handling such grave accusations.

What’s more, a 2015 poll revealed overwhelming support for similar legislation, with 91 percent of likely voters agreeing with the notion that college students who are accused of sexual assault deserve the full due process protections afforded to those accused of any other crime.

[RELATED: POLL: Justice system should handle sexual assault on campus]

Currently, many colleges do not allow accused students to review evidence or access counsel—a statute that at least 90 percent of those polled disagreed with. Likewise, 81 percent said the law should prohibit schools from deciding cases on the basis of the “preponderance of the evidence,” favoring the more-rigorous “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases.

Nonetheless, the federal government, in a court brief filed Friday, stated that “K-State is incorrect” and advised the district court to deny requests for the suit to be dismissed.

“The continuing effects of a student-on-student rape, including the constant fear of exposure to one’s assailant, can render a student’s educational environment hostile,” the government filings state. “Thus, a school must respond to allegations of sexual assault in fraternity activities to determine if a hostile environment exists there or in any other education program or activity.”

Cari Simon, the attorney representing the alleged victims, told The Kansas City Star that they “filed the lawsuit to stand up for victims of rape on college campuses and are thrilled to see the U.S. federal government out in support of the law.”

Simon and her defense team continue to cite a 2011 Dear Colleague letter from the Department of Education that advised schools to investigate allegations of off-campus sexual assault, specifically mentioning off-campus fraternity houses as an example.

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