Defense Department file photo

Pentagon Watchdog to Examine Sexual Harassment at Defense Schools

Senate committee requested review as part of family readiness push.

The Pentagon inspector general will open a review of procedures and policies designed to prevent sexual harassment of students in the Defense Department’s pre-K-12 school system, Principal Deputy IG Glenn Fine announced on Thursday.

In a memo to all service secretaries and manpower-related Defense undersecretaries, the IG previewed an “evaluation of the Department of Defense and DoD Education Activity Response to Incidents of Serious Student Misconduct on Military Installations.”

The assignment of investigators to perform site visits, interviews, documentation and database reviews of both sexual assault and harassment cases comes in response to instructions in the Senate Armed Services Committee’s report accompanying the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.

In a section on family readiness matters, the senators cited Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act and noted that “student victims of sexual harassment in DODEA schools do not have the same rights and protections as those available to students attending U.S. public schools.”

The Pentagon schools’ current policies for responding to incidents, the report stated, “fail to respect the rights of victims and lead to inadequate and insufficient responses to complaints of sexual harassment.” The senators in their report gave DODEA until March 31, 2019, to establish new policies and procedures.

The IG’s office said it would also “evaluate the department and referrals to DoD law enforcement organizations, as well as referrals to military and civilian child advocacy and health services.”

DODEA managers do have detailed sexual harassment prevention policies in place. The agency did not respond to Government Executive queries by publication time as to what incidents might have prompted concern.