Baylor receives law firm's sexual assault report

AP News
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Posted: May 13, 2016 6:13 PM

WACO, Texas (AP) — Baylor University officials announced Friday they received a law firm's report on how the school handled incidents of sexual assault on campus, but the school gave no indication whether the document will be made public.

The governing board of the largest Baptist university in the U.S. was briefed by the Pepper Hamilton law firm at a meeting this week and members will be "guided by their faith" in making decisions for students' welfare.

The report comes amid heightened attention to how Baylor and other universities around the country have handled sexual misconduct and rape allegations against athletes. Baylor hired the Philadelphia law firm in September 2015 after former football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of sexual assault.

"These deliberations are vital as we seek to preserve and reinforce trust in Baylor University," board chairman Richard Willis. "Thoroughly understanding the findings and acting on the recommendations to ensure the safety of all students are the Board's highest priority."

University President Ken Starr did not immediately issue a statement and a school spokeswoman said Friday's announcement would be the only information released Friday.

Starr and his school have been under increasing pressure over whether the school was properly reporting or investigating any cases on campus as required under federal law, including several reports of sexual violence involving football players.

In February, former student Jasmin Hernandez of Orange County, California, filed a federal lawsuit claiming the school failed was "deliberately indifferent" to rape allegations levied at a former football player Tevin Elliott who was convicted in 2014 of sexually assaulting her. He is serving a 20-year prison sentence. While The Associated Press generally doesn't identify sexual assault victims, Hernandez's attorneys have said she wants to speak publicly to draw attention to the case.

Baylor has said it is making changes to how it responds to reports of sexual assault as part of a $5 million commitment to improve its efforts. Those include adding another investigator and more staff to the school's Title IX office.

Hernandez's lawsuit claims Baylor violated federal Title IX protections against sexual harassment and that football players were recruited without regard to the harm they might cause fellow students.

Baylor did not report a single instance of sexual assault from 2008 to 2011, according to federal statistics, a finding that stands in sharp contrast to the many other private and public schools that made multiple reports over the same period.