The Texas Rangers have opened a preliminary inquiry into the sexual assault scandal at Baylor University, school and law enforcement officials said Wednesday.
Tom Vinger, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the state's top criminal investigative unit is working with a local prosecutor's office "to determine if further action is warranted." He didn't say what specifically the Rangers were looking into, but the confirmation comes two days after a Democratic lawmaker wrote a letter asking Gov. Greg Abbott to request an investigation.
That lawmaker, Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, said he wanted to know whether the university obstructed justice when students reported that they had been raped by other students.
"We know women were shamed and coerced to keep quiet," Gutierrez said. "This is about making sure that an obstruction of justice gets uncovered."
Baylor is already under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights over whether the school violated Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex. And it is facing multiple civil lawsuits from rape victims. Meanwhile, the Big 12 Conference is withholding money from the school until it can independently verify changes at the university.
In a short statement, the university said it would cooperate with the Rangers inquiry.
"Baylor University pledges to extend our full cooperation with the Texas Rangers surrounding the issue of sexual assaults that occurred within our campus community several years ago, as we have done with other external inquiries that are currently underway," the statement said.
The school has been mired in scandal over its handling of sexual assault cases since 2015, when football player Sam Ukwuachu was convicted of raping a fellow student. During Ukwuachu’s trial, testimony revealed that the university investigated his case but decided not to take any punitive action.
Since then, many more stories of lax handling of allegations of sexual assault have surfaced. In a lawsuit filed in January, attorneys for one victim claimed that 31 football players were responsible for 52 sexual assaults from 2011 to 2014. And an investigation found problems throughout the university — not just the football team. Very few students accused of sexual violence were punished, and at times administrators engaged in “victim blaming,” the investigators found.
The university has admitted that it had many problems in handling sexual violence cases. Investigators hired by the university have recommended 105 policy changes for improvement. So far, the school says, 80 have been implemented.
Read more on the Baylor sexual assault scandal:
- Baylor could lose millions of dollars as the Big 12 Conference works to make sure that the school has properly responded to its sexual assault scandal.
- A federal lawsuit filed against Baylor University claims 31 football players at the school committed 52 acts of rape from 2011 to 2014, which is far more than had been previously disclosed by university officials.