SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A California university facing criticism over its handling of hazing accusations involving an African-American student on campus last fall acted within its policies when responding to the incident, a fact-finding report showed on Monday.
Authorities said four white students at San Jose State University displayed Nazi imagery and a Confederate flag in their dormitory suite to taunt a black dorm mate and also attempted to hang a U-shaped bicycle lock around his neck.
The teens barricaded the dorm mate in his room on multiple occasions in harassment that started in early September and continued through mid-October of last year, according to the report.
Three of the teens, Colin Warren, 18, Joseph Bomgardner, 19, and Logan Beaschler, 18, pleaded not guilty in December and January to one count of a misdemeanor hate crime and one count of misdemeanor battery against their 17-year-old dorm mate.
A fourth defendant is a minor, and details about his case have not been made public.
“A lot of these things happened within bedrooms, within suites, where there just may not have been access,” said attorney Myron Moye, who led the fact-finding task force appointed by university President Mohammad Qayoumi.
“A combination of (that) and a lack of reporting, I think, contributed mostly to the timing of these things coming to light.”
The report notes that the school waited until November 21 - five weeks after the incidents came to light - to suspect the students and discuss the situation with the victim’s parents.
“The timing left the impression that the university’s senior leaders were uncaring,” the report said.
The victim’s parents complained to the university in October, after visiting the dormitory and seeing a racial slur written on a dry-erase board, according to the report.
Shortly after the victim’s parents complained, a residential coordinator filed an anonymous report about the harassment to university police. The department concluded its investigation on October 30 and sent the case to the Santa Clara district attorney.
The university came under scrutiny following news reports of the events later in the fall. Students, upset that the alleged bullying happened repeatedly without apparent official action, staged campus protests.
A review of the incident could lead to the permanent expulsion of the students, San Jose State University spokeswoman Pat Harris said.
A leader with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for the accused boys to be charged with felony crimes.
Monday’s report, which details the timeline of events and the actions that school officials and other authorities took in response to the incidents, will be reviewed by a separate university-appointed task force led by retired superior court judge LaDoris Cordell.
Recommendations will be made to the university on April 30.
“Our purpose is to look at lessons learned,” Cordell said. “What recommendations can we make to this university so that a situation like this never happens again.”
Editing by Edith Honan; Editing by Ken Wills