By STEVE SZKOTAK, Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Military Institute and the Obama administration announced an agreement Friday to address what the government called a sexually hostile environment for female cadets on the Lexington campus.
The Education Department's Office of Civil Rights said the state school also failed to provide prompt and equitable resolution of complaints of sexual harassment and assault.
VMI said it agreed, with reservations, to sign the agreement, stating many of the issues raised by the government had already been instituted at the school. VMI said in a statement that it was in its best interest to "put an end to this six-year investigation."
Title IX of the Civil Rights Act prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds.
The department said it negotiated revisions to VMI's marriage and parenthood policy, which had required a pregnant cadet to resign or leave the school. Under the revised policy, effective last month, VMI now allows cadets who become pregnant, or have a child, to continue their education.
It also says the college agreed to implement a new policy on handling sexual-assault cases.
"All members of the VMI community must be able to live, study and work in a safe environment," Catherine E. Lhamon, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement.
In a statement, VMI said it had strived during the investigation to put in place many of the measures called for by the resolution. The college said it was "profoundly disappointed" with the department's findings.
"We are committed to moving forward to do all in our power to ensure the safety and well-being of our cadets and employees," the statement concluded.
The Education Department said VMI agreed to initiate or continue programs aimed at ending sex discrimination. They include:
— A unified policy on sexual harassment and sexual assault.
— Submitting to the department for review all sexual-harassment and sexual-assault complaints, plus investigative files and findings, for the 2014-15 academic year.
— Annual assessments of the climate for cadets, faculty and staff concerning sexual harassment and sexual assault.
— Annual training of cadets, faculty and staff on identifying and reporting sexual harassment and sexual assault. This also includes mandatory group sessions for cadets on sexual assault.
The department's civil rights office said it would monitor VMI to ensure that the policy changes are fully implemented.
Steve Szkotak can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sszkotakap .
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