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Feds investigate handling of sexual harassment allegations at North West Hendricks schools

Posted at 11:33 AM, Jan 14, 2020

LIZTON — The federal government has launched an investigation into whether the North West Hendricks School Corporation properly handles allegations of sexual harassment.

The United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights opened the Title IX investigation on December 4, according to the agency’s website, for “sexual harassment” and “retaliation” within the school district.

Title IX is the 1972 federal civil rights law that bans sexual discrimination in education, best known for breaking down barriers for women in sports.

Title IX also requires K-12 schools to address reports of sexual misconduct, a process that is completely separate from the criminal process.

Call 6 Investigates spoke with a Hendricks County mother who filed a complaint last year alleging the North West Hendricks School Corporation subjects female students to discrimination by failing to adequately respond to reports of sexual harassment.

The complaint also alleged North West Hendricks retaliated against people for reporting sexual harassment or objecting to the corporation’s responses to sexual harassment reports.

The district has faced criticism for how it has handled sexual misconduct allegations involving teacher and coach Tyler Bruce.

Bruce has denied the allegations, and the board has allowed him to stay on paid leave while the criminal investigation continues.

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If a school district is found in violation of Title IX, typically the school reaches an agreement with the Office for Civil Rights in which they agree on ways to improve.

If schools do not comply with Title IX, they can risk losing federal funding.

The Office for Civil Rights will likely now collect interviews and analyze evidence from the district and from anyone who filed a complaint with their office.

They could find insufficient evidence that the district failed to comply with the law, or they could find that the district did not follow Title IX.

Call 6 Investigates reached out to the district’s communications consultant Donna Petraits for comment on the investigation.

Petraits sent RTV6 the following statement Tuesday evening: