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California university under investigation over handling of rapes

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The U.S. government is investigating the University of Southern California's handling of reported cases of rape on its campus near downtown Los Angeles, school officials said on Monday.

The sex discrimination probe by the U.S. Department of Education came in response to a complaint by the school's Student Coalition Against Rape.

Tucker Reed, a student who founded the group earlier this year, said the university did not respond properly when she reported being sexually assaulted.

"I blogged openly about the details of my rape and the university's abuses and watched as my inbox filled with emails from fellow students who had experienced the same injustices and the same silencing," Reed told reporters on Monday.

Jody Shipper, the school's chief of equity and diversity, said the university was told by federal officials that the complaint had been filed in May by two students who alleged sex discrimination based on the university's handling of the reports of assaults.

The complaints were made under Title IX of the federal education code. Title IX is commonly associated with college sports but more broadly it also prohibits gender discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence at universities.

"We look forward to working with (the Office of Civil Rights) to address any concerns and review our protocols as needed," Shipper said in a statement.

The Student Coalition Against Rape did not immediately release a copy of its report on the incidents.

Stephen Spector, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said in an email the complaint "is currently under investigation." The agency could not comment further on the case, he said.

An annual crime report from the University of Southern California showed seven cases of forcible sex offenses in its university park area in 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

The California university is not the only school being investigated by the Department of Education over its handling of rape cases.

The agency in May began a compliance review of Dartmouth College to examine such issues as sexual harassment grievance procedures and the New Hampshire college's response to such claims, Spector said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Lisa Shumaker)

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