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Howard University mishandled sexual assault reports, lawsuit says

Students and members of the administration at Howard University hold a rally against sexual assault on the campus of the university April 11, 2016, in Washington. The rally was held as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

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WASHINGTON -- Five current and former Howard University students are alleging in a federal lawsuit that the school didn't respond quickly and equitably to female students' sexual assault reports.

News outlets report that in the suit filed Wednesday, plaintiffs accuse the historically black college in Washington of "discriminatory and retaliatory response to multiple complaints of sexual assault and harassment."

The suit claims that two of the five women left the school over safety concerns, according to CBS affiliate WUSA-TV in Washington.

According to the lawsuit, one woman reported to a school official that a male resident assistant raped her in 2016. She later connected with a second woman who said she reported that the same person raped her in 2015. No arrests have been made in either case.

The city's Metropolitan Police Department closed the 2016 case without an arrest after the U.S. Attorney's office declined to file charges, WUSA-TV reports. Last year, more than 100 students held protests across Howard's campus, criticizing the university's response to the allegations.

Howard said in a statement to WUSA-TV that it takes such allegations "very seriously" but the university does not comment on pending litigation.

"Our commitment is evidenced by our rigorous enforcement of the University's Title IX Policy on Prohibited Sexual Harassment and Gender-Based Discrimination in Education Program and Activities," the statement read. "The University has been, and remains, committed to diligently investigating any such allegations to ensure a safe and healthy community for our faculty, staff and students."