Feds to probe Wheaton College's sexual misconduct policies

By The Associated Press | Posted - Sep. 9, 2015 at 4:01 p.m.

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NORTON, Mass. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice has started an investigation and compliance review of Wheaton's policies and practices in responding to sexual misconduct, Wheaton's president said Wednesday.

President Dennis Hanno said in a letter to students, faculty and parents that the department indicated the probe is in response to a complaint, but he gave no further details.

Wheaton spokesman Michael Graca said that over the last three years, Wheaton has seen a significant increase in the number of reports of sexual misconduct, which includes stalking, sexual harassment, unwanted touching and sexual assault.

Hanno said the first stage of the department's investigation calls for Wheaton to collect documents on its policies, procedures and alleged incidents for the past three years.

He said he is confident the college's practices meet legal requirements and reflect its dedication to maintaining a safe and secure environment.

"However, we intend to use this review to look for new opportunities to improve the programs and processes we have for creating and sustaining a safe and welcoming environment for all students, faculty and staff," Hannon said in the letter.

Graca said the college has developed many initiatives with a $300,000 grant Wheaton received from the DOJ in 2012, including training programs for faculty and students.

Sexual harassment and assault on college campuses has received increased attention in recent years. Hanno said the Department of Education has opened investigations of more than 130 institutions over the past 18 months.

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