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UNC assault-case complainant accuses school of retaliation

By Jason Hanna and Vivian Kuo, CNN
updated 7:34 PM EDT, Mon March 25, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Landen Gambill accuses the University of North Carolina of retaliation
  • She had accused an ex-boyfriend of rape; she's been taken to student honor court
  • Federal officials already are investigating the handling of sexual abuse complaints at UNC
  • UNC's chancellor says the school's policies meet federal law

(CNN) -- One of the University of North Carolina students who persuaded the Department of Education to investigate the school's handling of sex assault cases has filed a new complaint, accusing the university of retaliating against her.

Landen Gambill filed the complaint Monday with the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights. She accuses the school of allowing her to be charged in the student-run honor court with intimidating her ex-boyfriend, whom she had accused of rape, her attorney, Henry Clay Turner, wrote in a letter to the school's chancellor.

The letter asks UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp to end the honor court prosecution, adding that although students operate the court, the chancellor has "the authority and the responsibility" to dismiss the charge.

The Education Department earlier this month opened its investigation at the request of current and former students as well as a former administrator. The department is looking into the women's allegations that school administrators brushed aside concerns about sexual violence on campus and failed to adequately investigate complaints of sexual assault.

The department also notified the university last week that it would review UNC's campus security reporting and whether its policies conformed to federal law. UNC said the reviews were expected and that it would cooperate fully with the investigation.

The Chapel Hill-based university did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new complaint from Gambill.

In an interview last week, Thorp told CNN that university policies follow federal law and that the school has worked to make sure everyone there knows how a sexual assault allegation will be handled -- "but the way we implement them can always continue to be improved."

The tension over sexual violence claims at UNC was on display in February, when the honor court charges against Gambill were made public. The court's student prosecutors had earlier declined to proceed with a case alleging honor code violations by Gambill's ex-boyfriend after she accused him of rape.

Gambill did not file a sexual assault report with police, and Gambill's ex-boyfriend -- who has not been identified publicly -- has denied her accusation, according to his attorney, John Gresham.

The man then asked the court to consider intimidation charges against Gambill, saying her accusations had negatively changed perceptions of him on campus and was making life difficult for him at school.

In a statement last month, Thorp said school officials had not encouraged the man to file a case against Gambill.

"This university works hard to encourage students to come forward and report instances of sexual violence," Thorp said in the statement. "No student has ever been disciplined for reporting a sexual assault or any honor code violation. Further, no university administrator filed or encouraged the filing of charges in this case; there is no retaliation by the university."

School administrators have disputed the cavalier attitude toward sexual assault alleged by the students, noting that UNC has removed sexual violence cases from the list of concerns handled by the school's honor court and appointed an administrator to deal directly with victims.

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