Independent counsel report ties MU failure to clarify Title IX reporting policies to Courey’s death

The firm attempted to identify university reporting procedures that would have been relevant to the allegations at the time, and found there were no explicit instructions.

The independent counsel hired to investigate MU student Sasha Menu Courey’s alleged sexual assault and subsequent suicide concluded that the university has flawed policies regarding incidents of sexual assault.

Dowd Bennett, a St. Louis-based law firm hired by the UM System, concluded that the university failed to abide by Title IX policies that hold faculty and staff responsible for reporting any incidents of rape or sexual assault.

MU should have acted on information that it reportedly acquired in November 2012 regarding Menu Courey’s reported assault, the report stated. Instead, the university failed to notify the Title IX coordinator to conduct a proper investigation and contact the police department, the report concludes.

Dowd Bennett states that MU has many inadequate policies regarding reporting sexual assault. The firm attempted to identify procedures that would have been relevant to the allegations at the time, and found there were no explicit instructions.

The report also concludes that the university should have informed the Title IX coordinator of a February 2012 Columbia Daily Tribune article that stated Menu Courey had written in her diary about the assault.

The firm interviewed swim coaches in the MU Athletic Department who had close contact with Murray, interviewing employee Meghan Anderson at length.

Although the Tribune article states that Menu Courey said she told Anderson of the alleged rape, the report stated it could not find existing evidence that Anderson was aware, although May 2011 telephone records confirmed the existence of a call in which Menu Courey said she told Anderson.

Title IX, under federal law and in accordance with the U.S. Department of Education, states that no person shall be discriminated against on the basis of gender, in any educational program funded by the government.

Application to this situation falls under a 2001 UM Office of the General Counsel Guidance that explicitly says sexual harassment falls under Title IX.

“If a student sexually harasses another student and the harassing conduct is sufficiently serious to deny or limit the student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the program,” the guidance states. “And if the school knows or reasonably should know about the harassment, the school is responsible for taking immediate effective action to eliminate the hostile environment and prevent its recurrence.”

In the report, Dowd Bennett clarified that its duty was to determine if the university “violated the law” due to the lack of specificity in statute and regulations. However, the firm does not believe it can advise the board on legal action, the report said.

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