Dear Knox Community,
I am writing to share some important news. Knox and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education recently entered into a resolution agreement resolving six Title IX complaints that included allegations regarding the College’s response to reports of sexual misconduct.
As part of its extensive investigation that began in early 2014, the OCR carefully reviewed a substantial amount of information, including the College’s policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct and other forms of sex discrimination; information provided by students and College representatives; and information regarding the Title IX training provided to the College community. As a result of its investigation, the OCR identified concerns regarding delays in processing some of the complaints included in the resolution agreement and some concerns with the College’s Title IX policies and grievance procedures in effect at that time. The OCR specifically noted, however, that the “College recognized and took affirmative steps to address and resolve” these concerns. In light of the commitments the College has made in the resolution agreement, OCR has determined that it is appropriate to close the investigative phase and resolve these complaints with an agreement.
The affirmative steps that the College had taken before entering into this agreement with the OCR include:
Revising the campus grievance procedures to replace the grievance panel with a model that utilizes a trained, trauma-informed investigator;
Increased support and expanded programming for parties involved in the investigation and resolution of reports of sexual misconduct, including the addition of personnel who are confidential resources on campus and clarification of available interim and protective measures;
Significantly expanding primary prevention and risk reduction awareness education for students, faculty, and staff, including annual and ongoing training opportunities for all members of the Knox community, as well as bystander intervention training and specialized training for those addressing reports of sexual misconduct;
In the resolution agreement with OCR, the College affirms our commitment to maintaining and disseminating our Title IX policies and procedures and operating our programs and activities in compliance with Title IX. The College also affirms our commitment to a comprehensive education and prevention program that informs the College community with ongoing efforts to strengthen individual knowledge and skills, specifically agreeing to:
Deliver annual and ongoing education and training programs to employees and students and report on these programs to the OCR by June 30, 2019;
Send individual letters to the students involved in the complaints covered by the resolution agreement “explaining the ways in which [the College’s] grievance process has been revised to meet the Title IX requirements for complainants and respondents, and . . . offer each student an opportunity to meet to share concerns regarding their respective experiences” by September 15, 2018.
In addition to the complaints covered by the resolution agreement, the OCR has notified the College of the outcome in three other matters: one matter was administratively closed by the OCR, one was dismissed by the OCR because comparable allegations had been raised in a lawsuit that was resolved in the College’s favor, and in one the OCR determined that the evidence collected during OCR’s investigation did not establish a violation of Title IX. We are awaiting the outcome of three additional Title IX complaints filed with OCR and will update the community when more information is available.
The improvements we have made over the past few years at Knox are powered in large measure by student-driven initiatives. I want to thank the students who participated in the OCR’s investigation for their determination to change our College for good. Without their bravery, we could not have reached this point in our community’s continuing journey toward eliminating discrimination and harassment. We are also deeply indebted to the OCR and Knox staff whose dedication and expertise make it possible for the College to provide fair, prompt and equitable responses to these difficult matters.
The resolution of these complaints does not end the work of ensuring that our actions match our values. I know I speak for all of us at Knox in recognizing that a respectful and safe learning community is a shared responsibility and in committing ourselves to that essential work.
Teresa L. Amott