-- The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has opened an investigation into Florida State's handling of sexual assault allegations against quarterback Jameis Winston, according to a letter obtained by USA Today Sports.
A Florida State student said she was raped by Winston in December 2012. Deadspin.com reported Thursday that school officials met with Winston in January 2013 to discuss the matter, but the school might have violated federal law by delaying its investigation and meeting with Winston, alone, despite legal advice to the contrary.
Florida authorities announced in December that Winston would not face criminal charges in the case, but his accuser filed a federal complaint about the school's handling of it in March. Failure to comply with federal Title IX laws, which cover sexual harassment and violence, can result in a school losing its federal funding.
Winston's accuser filed her complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in March, 16 months after she first reported the incident.
On colleges campuses, students accused of crimes face disciplinary hearings and are judged on a lower "preponderance of evidence" standard than in criminal courts, USA Today noted. At Florida State and elsewhere, a campus disciplinary body determines if an accused student is responsible or not responsible. Punishments vary from writing a paper to suspension or expulsion.
While such disciplinary processes are in the hands of schools, according to the Office of Civil Rights "these procedures must apply to all students, including athletes. If a complaint of sexual violence involved a student athlete, the school must follow its standard procedures for resolving sexual violence complaints."
Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy in the week after learning he would not face charges, is currently playing for the Seminoles baseball team. He will be a sophomore for the coming football season.