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Florida State close to new policy on sexual assault

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Florida State University has almost completed a more detailed policy on sexual conduct and sexual harassment while coming into compliance with federal Title IX standards.

The university’s Board of Trustees on Friday received an update on the school’s Title IX policy and approved amendments to regulations dealing with violations due to sexual misconduct.

Florida State has increased its efforts to raise awareness about sexual assault and prevention since a former student filed a Title IX lawsuit in which she said the school failed to adequately investigate her allegation that she was raped by former star quarterback Jameis Winston.

Title IX is a federal statute that bans sexual discrimination at schools that receive federal funding. The university settled the lawsuit with Winston’s accuser, Erica Kinsman, in January. FSU, however, is still being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education.

The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, but Kinsman has spoken publicly about her case.

Over the past 18 months, Florida State has hired a full-time Title IX coordinator, added six positions to improve campus safety and required all incoming freshmen to complete an online course to make “more informed choices about sex and relationships.” As part of the settlement with Kinsman, the university has agreed to publish annual reports for the next five years about its progress in implementing programs on sexual-assault awareness and prevention.

“We have come a long way. As we’ve seen the last several months there are other schools under scrutiny,” university president John Thrasher said during Friday’s meeting. “We are confident that this policy has allowed us to move well ahead of other universities. Where we are today is much better than a year ago.”

According to the Office of Civil Rights, there are 244 sexual violence cases under investigation at 193 universities. The other Florida schools are Full Sail University, the University of South Florida and the University of Miami, which has two cases under investigation.

The Department of Education in 2011 warned schools of their legal responsibilities to immediately investigate allegations of sexual assault, even if the criminal investigation has not concluded. It began publishing the list of schools under investigation in 2014 and FSU was one of 55 on the original list.

Florida State Title IX Director Jennifer Broomfield said the school’s new policy is modeled after the University of Virginia, which settled its Title IX complaint last September. Broomfield said there are policy pieces up front along with easy-to-access sections on how they apply to different parts of the university population. It will give clear guidelines as far as reporting rights and the responding parties rights.

“We’re close to something that the Office of Civil Rights can approve and something we can implement fairly,” Broomfield said.

A lawsuit filed by Kinsman against Winston – and a countersuit he filed against her claiming she is trying to take advantage of his newfound wealth as the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – are ongoing. Winston left Florida State in 2014 for the NFL while Kinsman transferred to another university. She graduated this past spring.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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