Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP Launches Campus Investigations Team to Help Education Institutions Review and Handle Allegations of Sexual Misconduct
Consisting of attorneys from the firm’s Higher Education, Labor and Employment, White Collar and Litigation groups who focus their practices on the education sector, the team will work together to conduct objective investigations, thorough evaluations and careful analyses to help clients address claims and, when appropriate, make effective changes to their policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment, misconduct and assault claims.
The #MeToo movement has empowered people to come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault and has put a spotlight on the pervasiveness of this issue in a multitude of industries. Inspired by the movement, companies and organizations, including colleges, universities and K-12 schools, are reexamining their processes for handling these complaints.
“Allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault on campus are not new. What is new is the social media spotlight, and a related shift in focus where academic institutions are not just being tasked to look into new allegations of misconduct, but, oftentimes, to also investigate widespread and historic allegations of misconduct that may go back years or even decades”, comments Jim Keller, co-chair of the firm’s Higher Education Practice and vice-chair of the Litigation Department. “As a Firm and a practice, we have been doing this work for years. We believed it was prudent, however, to formalize this team so the education community knows that we can mobilize on a moment’s notice to assist educational institutions to handle allegations, conduct investigations, and work to address, mitigate, and proactively train institutions regarding sexual misconduct.”
The Campus Investigations Team can assist education institution clients by:
- Evaluating their handling of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault allegations in the past, conducting new objective reviews and investigations of historic misconduct when necessary, and recommending investigation process improvements.
- Conducting objective internal investigations of new sexual harassment, misconduct and assault claims.
- Defending clients in related litigation or government investigations, to the extent that firm has not served as the factual investigator
- Providing both reactive and proactive compliance reviews and audits and assisting with internal disciplinary processes
- Revising handbooks, policies and compliance programs that adopt recent findings and adhere to relevant regulations, including Title IX, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics(Clery) Act.
- Working with crisis management consultants to handle relevant media communications
- Providing training sessions that address what constitutes harassment, misconduct and assault; who can be responsible for engaging in this conduct; and how to mitigate and deal with allegations of this inappropriate behavior
"We believe our formalized and dedicated campus investigations initiative can help education institutions nationwide effectively, compassionately and proactively address the ongoing issues of sexual assault and misconduct on our campuses," said Mr. Keller, also noting the Firm’s recent launch of new offices in Illinois and South Florida. "It is our duty to help guide our clients through this new landscape of widespread public attention, and assist in producing a lasting changes to the betterment of our institutions, their students, alumni, and communities."
The firm's robust Higher Education practice already represents hundreds of colleges and universities on a variety of issues, including large-scale government investigations, proactive compliance reviews and audits, comprehensive policy review and revisions, and nationally-tracked lawsuits on cutting-edge issues. More information on the Higher Education practice can be viewed here.
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The 400-plus attorneys of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr are dedicated to providing client-centric counsel to businesses throughout the United States and internationally from 15 offices stretching down the East Coast from Boston to Miami and extending into the Midwest by way of Chicago. We work with well-known corporations, exciting start-ups and an array of closely held and privately held companies, as well as institutions of higher education, nonprofits and governmental entities. As a full-service law firm, we handle matters involving bankruptcy, business and finance, estates and trusts, litigation and real estate services. We also advise on intellectual property, immigration and foreign investment services. Energy, higher education, insurance and life sciences are among our core industries of focus.