Protesters decry BYU Honor Code investigations for sexual assault survivors 19

Brigham Young University Academic Vice President Brent W. Webb carries a box containing 60,000 signatures from an online petition delivered to him on Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at the university's administration building in Provo. Protesters gathered at the edge of campus and then marched to the administration building to deliver a petition urging BYU not to launch Honor Code investigations against victims of sexual assault. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

Brigham Young University is the target of a federal investigation for how it responds to reports of sexual assault.

The university learned Thursday afternoon it is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, according to an announcement posted Monday afternoon on the university’s website.

The investigation comes after a complaint was filed on April 18.

“BYU cannot comment on the specific details of the complaint due to federal privacy restrictions,” reads the online announcement.

Eric Hawkins, a spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which operates BYU, said the church does not have a separate statement on the investigation and referred to the announcement placed on BYU’s website.

In May, BYU launched a website to receive feedback on how it handles sexual assault after it opened its own investigation into the relationship between its Title IX Office, which handles sexual assault reports, and its Honor Code Office after a student stepped forward to say she was investigated by the Honor Code Office after reporting an off-campus sexual assault to local law enforcement.

Students have said they have been investigated by BYU’s Honor Code Office for violations that have come to light during the investigation of their sexual assault. More than 114,000 people have signed an online petition asking for honor code amnesty for survivors when they report their assaults.

One of the survivors who has come forward, Madi Barney, has previously said the university became aware of her reported rape after an acquaintance of her attacker, who is also a deputy with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, illegally gave the university her police file.

Barney could not be reached Monday for comment about the investigation.

As part of its own investigation, BYU formed the Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault, which has met throughout the summer to discuss how to eliminate sexual assault on campus and how to better handle the reporting process for victims.

The council has looked at potential structural changes at BYU, the process for it and how information is used and the relationship between the Title IX Office and the Honor Code Office.

BYU University Police is also under investigation by the state Department of Public Safety's State Bureau of Investigation for possible violations related to sexual assault reporting and how the department accesses and disseminates information. The investigation came at the request of BYU University Police Chief Larry Stott and other local law enforcement administrators.

Two other Utah universities, the University of Utah and Westminster College in Salt Lake City, are also currently under national investigation.

More than 200 colleges and universities across the nation are under similar federal investigations.

This story is developing and more details will be added as they are made available.

Braley Dodson covers health and education for the Daily Herald.

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