FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 19, 2022
Second Title IX Investigation Launched by DOE in Response to Complaint Filed by REAP
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) notified the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) on Tuesday that the agency will initiate a Title IX investigation of Clarks Summit University (CSU) in Pennsylvania based on a complaint REAP submitted last July on behalf of Gary Campbell, a gay man and former CSU student. This is the second time in under two weeks that OCR has launched an investigation into a complaint filed by REAP.
The agency’s letter said it will investigate an allegation that “The University maintains a policy in its Student Handbook prohibiting students from engaging in same-sex romantic or sexual relationships, as well as from ‘cross-dressing or other actions deliberately discordant with birth gender.’”
REAP director, Paul Southwick, stated that "this action potentially affects hundreds of educational institutions and demonstrates that OCR has the power to investigate taxpayer-funded religious schools whose disciplinary or other policies discriminate against LGBTQ+ students.”
But Southwick cautioned that: “Unfortunately, once an investigation is opened, these Title IX complaints will likely ultimately be dismissed once the school asserts a religious exemption. That’s why our Title IX lawsuit challenging the validity of the religious exemption is so important.”
Gary Campbell was expelled from Clarks Summit University (CSU) in 2019 and barred from reapplying with just a few credits left before graduation. His sexual orientation was the stated reason for the school’s actions.
Upon learning of the Title IX investigation, Campbell commented, "I am crying, because for a while I thought what happened at Clarks Summit was my fault, that I was the one who messed up by going to this school. Now I have the REAP attorneys believing that I was being discriminated against and standing up for me, when nobody stood up for me during those 11+ years I went to that school.”
Campbell further states that “Now the Office for Civil Rights is saying they are diving in deep, that there is value in this investigation. They’re saying there are red flags here, and that helps me rid my mind of a lot of self-gaslighting and doubt, brainwashing that I was at fault. This whole process is therapeutic for me.”
Campbell is one of approximately 40 plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed by REAP against the DOE in March 2021 challenging the constitutionality of the religious exemption to Title IX, a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex by schools receiving Federal financial assistance. REAP has filed Title IX complaints on behalf of most of the plaintiffs.