When a 17-year-old Georgia resident, a participant in a summer program at Jacksonville State University, told a school official in July 2017 that she’d been raped by a male athlete, she signed a document and never heard from the official again, she said.
Jai Ingraham, then the university’s chief diversity officer tasked with taking the teen’s complaint, was placed on administrative leave nearly a month after the alleged rape and resigned in September 2017, according to his personnel file, provided to The Anniston Star in response to a public records request last month.
Experts on Title IX, the federal law that governs how colleges and universities deal with such complains, this week said schools have a duty to act in a timely manner, provide victims with support resources and report crimes to police when those victims are minors.
“Based on what’s been told to me there are so many things wrong with this case,” Saunie Schuster, an attorney and co-founder of the Association of Title IX Administrators, said in an interview this week.
During a months-long investigation by The Anniston Star, the Georgia teen, now 18, and her mother claimed the young woman was raped and that school officials helped protect the athlete from prosecution. The Star also learned that Ingraham left JSU soon after police began investigating, and that two campus police officers working the case were placed on administrative leave. JSU police Chief Shawn Giddy’s employment with the university was terminated this month, while an investigator, Carl Preuninger, was allowed to return to work.
Cicely Leufroy, the teen’s mother, said that after Ingraham resigned, Tim King, JSU’s vice president of student affairs who took over as Title IX coordinator for several months, told her the university would investigate the case. Neither of the women, they said, have seen any reports from the university. JSU spokeswoman Buffy Lockette declined to answer questions about the teen’s involvement with the university's Title IX office citing federal privacy laws.
Duty to report
Title IX is a law Congress passed in 1972 which prohibits any educational entity that accepts federal funding from discriminating based on sex. In the 1990s the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sexual assault is gender-based discrimination and should be considered under Title IX, and also that schools or universities have an obligation to respond to such allegations.
“Schools can't shirk their responsibility,” Schuster said. “Title IX, as a law, says you have an obligation to respond, an obligation to investigate, take action to stop the behavior, provide support and assistance to the victim of that assault while you uphold the rights of the accused.”
When the teen met with Ingraham, she said, she told him that she “wanted it to go away,” and signed a document he provided to her. She never received a copy of the document, she said, and doesn’t know now what it was.
Leufroy said last month that the university also provided her daughter with no emotional help, information about counseling services or information about a rape kit examination.
“What we hope a school will do, after receiving a complaint, is let students know what their rights are and provide the survivor with reasonable accommodations, medical services, no-contact orders, explain the formal complaint process and inform the student of the right to file a complaint to the police,” said Sage Carson of Know Your IX, an advocacy group for students.
At the very least, Schuster and Carson said, Ingraham should have reported the case to police, despite the teen’s wishes.
“She was a minor,” Schuster said. “She shouldn’t have met with or signed anything without a parent or guardian present. He would have known that. University officials are also mandatory reporters. Any reported or suspected abuse of a minor must be reported to police.”
Lockette wrote that it is incumbent upon the victim in a Title IX complaint to make any complaints to police or to notify their parents per federal law. The university has “mandatory reporters” who must report complaints to the Title IX office, but they, like victims, are also not required to report a sexual assault case to police, Lockette wrote.
“I would have expected the school to have encouraged the minor student to report the crime to police, but to be there with her through the process,” Carson said. “You don’t want something to be out of the victim’s hand, especially if a criminal investigation is something the student didn’t want to be involved in. But in the case of a minor, a report should have been made to police, regardless.”
The case was not reported to police until more than three weeks after the alleged assault. That report came from a university staff member, Leufroy said she learned from Preuninger. JSU police reports show that happened on Aug. 14, the same day Leufroy learned from police of the alleged assault against her daughter.
Ingraham was also placed on administrative leave on Aug. 14, according to his personnel file, a month before his resignation. Efforts to reach Ingraham on Tuesday and earlier this year were unsuccessful. University officials have declined to answer questions about the nature of the former Title IX coordinator’s administrative leave or his departure.
According to Ingraham’s performance review, completed two months before the alleged assault, his supervisor deemed him to have poor decision-making skills because of “the decision to withhold from his supervisor information about cases related to Diversity and Inclusion and Title IX.”
Waiting on results
During and after an investigation, both the victim and the accused have the right to review evidence and the results of the investigation, according to JSU’s Title IX policy.
“And the university has an obligation to report those findings to the victim in a timely manner,” Schuster said.
Victims should not have to contact a university for the results of any investigation, Carson said.
“The university should have clear and constant communication with the victim,” she said. “Not reporting the results of the investigation to the victim is harmful at times. The survivor needs to know if her attacker has been sanctioned or not and if that person will remain on campus.”
According to JSU’s policy, “the generally accepted standard to resolve formal Title IX complaints will be thirty days from the date of the receipt of a complaint unless extenuating circumstances necessitate additional time up to 60 days.” Nearly a year after the alleged assault, Leufroy says her daughter has never received the results of the university’s investigation.
Leufroy believes university officials used the results of that investigation to intercede in a criminal case against the athlete. The teen and her mother said they testified before a grand jury in October and were told an indictment would be issued against the student, but were told later by a court official that had changed. Officials at the courthouse and Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office show no record of an indictment against the athlete.
During a new grand jury session on the case in January, the victim and her mother again testified, but King was also present to testify, Leufroy said.
Universities typically will withhold the results of Title IX investigations from prosecutors in criminal cases unless the records are subpoenaed, the experts said.
“The Title IX process is civil and supposed to be separate from a criminal process,” Carson said. “Title IX is a law to protect a student’s right to engage in education, not to find someone guilty and keep them from that.”
Despite privacy laws, the results of investigations often are subpoenaed for accompanying criminal cases, Schuster said.
“Even though they’re available to defense attorneys and prosecutors, the first person to see those reports should be the victim, she said. “There are a lot of things that should have been done to better help this young woman and it sounds like the university didn’t do any of those things.”