MSU faces new Title IX inquiry over Nassar
Michigan State University is facing another investigation into how it handled the Larry Nassar scandal.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced a new investigation of the university’s probe of Nassar related to complaints under Title IX, the federal law aimed at protecting against sex discrimination in schools.
A federal education team is already on site, examining MSU’s compliance with the Clery Act, a federal law requiring colleges to report campus crimes, DeVos said.
“This new Title IX investigation will look at systemic issues in the University’s handling of sex-based incidents involving Dr. Larry Nassar,” DeVos said in a statement. “The crimes for which Dr. Nassar has been convicted are unimaginable. The bravery shown by the survivors has been remarkable. My heart goes out to them as they have had to relive their horrific experiences and as they begin the long road to healing.
“Every student across every campus should know that I am committed to ensuring all students have access to a learning environment free from sexual misconduct and discrimination and that all institutions that fall short will be held accountable for violations of federal law.”
It’s not clear what federal officials will investigate regarding Title IX complaints around Nassar, who sexually abused young girls by inserting his fingers inside of them under the guise of medical treatment.
“We were notified last week of the investigation by the Office of Civil Rights into the university’s handling of reports of sexual violence against former employee Larry Nassar,” MSU spokeswoman Heather Swain said in a statement Monday.
“As we have been, MSU is cooperating fully with this and all investigations. Our focus is on taking the actions that demonstrate the voices of the survivors have been heard and on creating a culture that provides a safe environment for all members of our community.”
Among the most well-known Title IX complaints about Nassar was investigated in 2014 after MSU alum Amanda Thomashow had an appointment with Nassar for treatment of hip pain, and he touched her inappropriately. She also reported Nassar’s behavior to the MSU police department in May 2014.
When the investigation concluded, Kristine Moore, then an MSU Title IX investigator, withheld critical findings, providing less information to Thomashow.
Moore, now MSU’s assistant general counsel, wrote two Title IX reports in the case. Moore cleared Nassar of sexual harassment in the report she gave to Thomashow. In the other report, which Moore sent to MSU and marked confidential, she cleared Nassar but also warned of his liability to the university.
Thomashow’s report about Nassar’s sexual misconduct was among several that reached at least 14 MSU staff members over two decades, a Detroit News investigation found.
Nassar is serving multiple prison terms for having child pornography and first-degree criminal sexual conduct.
In the wake of his criminal proceedings, which led the Michigan Attorney General’s office to identify at least 265 young women who were sexually abused by Nassar, complaints about sexual assault have increased.
The university also hired a firm last year to do an external review of MSU’s systems for addressing and preventing sexual misconduct. In November 2017, Husch Blackwell released the first of two reports that offered glowing feedback on the university’s policies and procedures.
“MSU’s current Title IX policy and procedures reflect a strong and genuine institutional commitment to combatting sexual misconduct, creating a safe campus environment, as well as compliance with Title IX’s legal requirements,” according to the report.
Another report is expected at the end of spring semester.
MSU faces numerous investigations, including inquiries from the NCAA, law enforcement and government agencies into how it handled allegations against Nassar, now regarded as one of the most notorious and prolific sex offenders.