Bob Jones University did not violate mandatory sex crime reporting laws, police say

by Kimberly Pennington |

(bjy.edu)

GREENVILLE, S.C. (Christian Examiner) -- A statement released this week by the Greenville, South Carolina Police Department said a 7-month investigation into possible violations of mandatory state sex crime reporting laws by Bob Jones University teachers, counselors, and administrators yielded "insufficient evidence to establish probable cause or prove beyond a reasonable doubt" said employees violated state laws.

Investigators reached this conclusion in consultation with the Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor's Office.

The investigation was prompted by a report (warning: report contents may be graphic) compiled by the organization GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) at the request of University officials in which questions were raised as to how school officials responded to students claiming to be victims of sexual abuse.

No specific incident prompted the University to seek assistance from GRACE according to school president Steve Pettit.

After the 300-page document was released in late 2014, Pettit publicly acknowledged ways in which the school fell short in addressing student concerns of sex abuse. In his March 2015 speech, which he gave after meeting with legal, counseling, and education professionals, Pettit promised changes in the school's policies, culture, and counseling practices with regard to victims of sexual abuse.

"As a member of the higher education community, we want to ensure we have appropriate and loving policies and procedures for responding to individuals when they disclose abuse or assault. Sexual abuse and assault are growing challenges for society. They are heinous crimes and perpetrators must be brought to justice by our system of law. We are all awakening to the magnitude of the issue and more publicly addressing it and the trauma it inflicts on victims," Pettit said.

Using the GRACE report, the Greenville Police department pursued its own investigation by attempting to contact all known parties in the GRACE report. In turn, 20 people reported to the police possible instances where BJU staff may have failed to comply with mandatory reporting laws.

"Many of the reports involved incidents that were alleged to have occurred years earlier, and often in locations outside of Greenville County. After conducting multiple witness interviews, the GPD requested and obtained educational and student records for thirteen of the responding individuals directly from Bob Jones University," the police statement reads.

"After interviewing all available witnesses, reviewing historical documentation, and consulting with the Solicitor, it was jointly concluded that there is insufficient evidence to establish probable cause or prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either the faculty or administration of BJU in place at that time violated the mandatory reporting law in the cases we reviewed," the police statement continues.

The police statement also says the investigation focused solely on matters of possible legal violations and not matters of moral or ethical responsibilities.

The Department continues to investigate one alleged instance of sexual assault between two former BJU students on campus in 1988. The incident was reported to BJU Public Safety but the victim declined to prosecute at the time, according to Monday's statement.

The Greenville Police Department promised to actively investigate new, relevant information in cases already reviewed, new complaints from other people described in the GRACE report, and cooperation with other police departments under whose jurisdiction some of the alleged sex crimes may have occurred.

Bob Jones University issued its own statement Monday which expressed appreciation for the work of the Greenville Police Department and Solicitor's Office during the investigation.

After noting the University fully cooperated with investigators, the statement said: "We believed our actions were not in violation of South Carolina law. We are pleased the investigation found no such violation."