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A student who withdrew from Southern Arkansas University claims that the school acted with "deliberate indifference" after she reported a sexual assault in 2015, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The school failed to respond "due to a lack of training, supervision, and the failure to implement policies to prevent and thereafter properly respond to the occurrence of sexual assault on school grounds," the lawsuit states.

Title IX is the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination at schools that receive federal money. Authorities have said schools under Title IX must respond to reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Texarkana, states that the university in Magnolia acted with deliberate indifference by "failing to adopt a compliant Title IX grievance procedure"; not providing "any interim safety measures"; not telling the student about "her rights and options" for the grievance process; and failing to tell her "about her right to be protected against retaliation," among other failures to act.

Aaron Street, a university spokesman, said in an email that the school "does not comment on pending litigation."

"However, SAU has Title IX policies and practices in place that are fair and consistent to protect our students," Street said, adding that "policies and procedures are communicated to our students multiple times in numerous forms."

Among the details of the complaint, the former student alleges that in December 2015 she was forcibly groped by a student. She later came to believe that he and another student -- with whom she had been having a consensual sexual encounter at the time -- conspired for the assault.

She was later told by Dean of Students Carey Baker that his "inclination" was to suspend one of the students for one year, but she was not informed of this in writing, the lawsuit states.

Only after she transferred schools and got legal assistance in 2016 did SAU "commit to 'reinvestigating'" her complaint, the lawsuit states.

NW News on 12/07/2018

Print Headline: Sex case mishandled at university, lawsuit says

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