A former student at Indiana University Bloomington has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, claiming that the university failed to properly handle and investigate her report of being sexually assaulted. Hailey Rail was an 18-year-old freshman at the time of the assault. Immediately following the incident, Rail went to the hospital for examination, filed a report with the police, and made a complaint to the university. Federal guidelines recommend that complaints of campus sexual assault be investigated within 60 days to protect the students involved. IU took nearly twice that amount of time to investigate Rail’s complaint. The university claims the delay was necessary to the case due to holiday breaks and to interview more than 30 witnesses. Ultimately, Rail’s assailant was found not guilty.
In the nearly four-month time span between the incident and the university hearing, Rail experienced post-traumatic stress disorder. She and the male student she claims raped her at an off-campus fraternity house in September continued living in the same dorm and had numerous social encounters. The university did not issue a no-contact order pending the investigation, forcing Rail to create distance between herself and her attacker on her own. After paying thousands of dollars in university housing fees to move to another dorm, she ultimately did not feel safe, dropped her classes, and left the university to return home to South Bend.
Jason Casares was the university’s Title IX deputy director that handled Rail’s sexual assault complaint. He found Rail’s alleged assailant not guilty, despite a statement that he “believed something happened but he did not have enough evidence.” Casares himself was later accused of sexual assault at a university event to raise awareness about sexual violence on campus and resigned. Rail felt Casares could have been biased in deciding the final outcome of her case because of a conflict of interest surrounding his own personal investigation. IU denied her request for an appeal because her request was three days past the appeal deadline.
“IU is reviewing all 18 sexual misconduct cases that Casares handled this school year, including Rail’s,” said university spokesman Mark Land. He said the university believes its sexual misconduct policy and complaint procedures were properly and promptly followed in Rail’s case. Land wrote in an email, “We are not going to sacrifice being thorough for the sake of being done in 60 days. Having said that, we understand the need to move with all due speed to bring these cases to their resolution and work hard to do that.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will evaluate Rail’s complaint to determine whether to open a federal investigation. If the federal agency identifies problems with sexual assault policies, universities are required to address them or risk losing federal funding and become subject to a U.S Department of Justice investigation. According to an IU report, last year 13 rapes were reported on campus and nine rapes were reported off-campus. The Department of Education already has two open investigations of IU Bloomington’s sexual violence policies. One case from 2014 is a review of the university’s compliance with Title IX standards and another case was opened June 30, 2015.
If you are interested in learning more about Title IX, sexual assault on college campus, and a university’s required action in response to a complaint, contact Thomas Law Offices or visit our Title IX page for more information.