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SF Conservatory of Music Mishandled Sexual Assault Investigation, Dept. of Education Concludes

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A building with a decorative top floor against a blue sky
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music pictured under construction in 2020. (Jessica Christian/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has concluded that the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) mishandled a sexual assault investigation and violated its Title IX obligations to prevent gender discrimination on its campus.

The OCR investigated the university’s handling of a 2022 incident in which a female student accused a male student of sexually assaulting her twice, stalking her and then violating an Active Avoidance Order. According to the OCR’s summary, SFCM “violated Title IX at every stage of investigation and resolution.”

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In an email, the SFCM press office told KQED that it investigates every Title IX complaint, and had been following a process created by its legal counsel in 2022. “This report has revealed clear changes that need to be made to our process and we are grateful for this opportunity to improve our work,” the statement reads.

OCR investigators determined that the university failed to preserve the accuser’s equal access to classes, performances and educational programs; failed to notify the involved parties in writing of the Title IX grievance process or the full scope of the allegations being investigated; failed to offer the parties an opportunity to review the evidence included in the investigative report at least 10 days prior to its completion; and failed to hold a live hearing. Additionally, the OCR found that the university did not notify the student of her right to appeal its determination on her case.

“Based upon the preponderance of the evidence, OCR determined that the Conservatory had actual notice of alleged sexual harassment, including two alleged sexual assaults and alleged stalking of the student, in its education program and responded in a manner that was deliberately indifferent,” reads a Jan. 10 letter to Conservatory President David H. Stull from the Department of Education.

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On Jan. 9, SFCM and the Department of Education reached a resolution agreement. Although the document specifies no admission of guilt by the Conservatory, the agreement requires SFCM to review its Title IX grievance processes; issue new guidance to staff who respond to complaints of sexual assault and harassment; reimburse the student for up to $5,000 in counseling and medical expenses; and allow her to retake any classes in which her grades were negatively impacted by the incidents, among other reformative measures. The Conservatory also agreed to federal monitoring to ensure compliance.

In its statement, the SFMC press office reiterated the Conservatory’s commitment to the agreement, which it said it will share with the campus community today.

“The Conservatory is committed to maintaining a safe and secure learning, teaching, and performing environment that emphasizes the dignity and worth of every member of its community,” the statement concluded.

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