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Whitman College is under investigation for a possible violation of federal law over the handling of sexual-violence and harassment complaints, the federal Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights office confirmed Tuesday.

The department declined to share any details about the investigation. The agency starts an investigation either because it has received a complaint, or as part of a compliance review. It does not mean that a violation has been found, only that a potential violation has been reported.

The investigation started Nov. 7 at Whitman, a small, private liberal-arts college in Walla Walla.

In a statement, the college said it “takes all reports of violations of its own policies and the provisions of Title IX very seriously, and we are in the process of preparing and delivering all requested documentation to the Office of Civil Rights.”

The Whitman statement said the college fully supports students, staff and faculty that come forward with reports of conduct that may violate its own policies, or Title IX policies.

There are 87 postsecondary institutions around the country that have pending sexual-violence investigations under Title IX, a federal law, which requires that students are not denied the ability to participate fully in educational and other opportunities due to their sex.

The office began releasing the list of colleges under investigation beginning in May of this year “in an effort to bring more transparency to our enforcement work and to foster better public awareness of civil rights,” Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a statement at that time.

She said that a college’s appearance on the list “in no way indicates at this stage that the college or university is violating or has violated the law.”

The only other school in this state on the list is Washington State University, which has been under investigation since January 2013.

The Obama administration has moved strongly in recent months to try to curtail sexual violence on campuses.

A student who called The Seattle Times said she made the Whitman complaint. She said she was the victim of a sexual assault in 2012, when she was a freshman, by a male student, and that the college did not take any disciplinary action against her assailant.

Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or