KIRO 7 investigates complaints against ex-Bellevue College assistant dean accused of sexual assault

KIRO 7 first told you in August about a lawsuit filed against Washington state that claims a former Bellevue College assistant dean sexually assaulted his assistant.

In the lawsuit, which also names Bellevue College, the woman claims the school failed to protect her from her boss, Faisal Jaswal, whose behavior she described as “predatory.”

Since the woman’s allegations first came to light, KIRO 7 went through nearly 1,000 documents and uncovered formal complaints against Jaswal from four women at Bellevue College, including the assistant, dating back to 2007.

"(It) was low-hanging fruit for him,” said attorney Julie Kays. She represents the woman who filed the lawsuit, which claims the sexual abuse by Jaswal began in 2010 and continued for several years.

"He threatened to fire her if she told anybody about this,” said Kays. Her client was granted a protection order, and Jaswal was told to stay at least 1,000 feet away from her.

Bellevue police investigated her allegations of sexual assault but did not recommend any criminal charges.

In addition to the allegations against Jaswal, the lawsuit claims Bellevue College "failed to stop and actively engaged in the creation of a hostile work environment.”

"Other colleagues saw what was happening, and repeated complaints were made to the Bellevue College, and repeatedly those complaints fell on deaf ears or were swept under the rug,” said Kays.

KIRO 7 also uncovered complaints made against two other Bellevue College administrators for harassment and discrimination, which one whistleblower told us shows the kind of behavior the school wouldn’t fully address.

"It was harassment. It went to human resources, and nothing ever happened,” said a current Bellevue College employee, who did not want to be named. She said she has even worried about her safety on campus.

"There are people who are still very scared to say anything,” she said.

That current Bellevue College employee described a campus where some women had little confidence that human resources would properly deal with harassment, discrimination and misconduct complaints.

"A problem from the top down at Bellevue College, in your opinion?” asked KIRO 7 reporter Michael Spears.

“Yes,” she said.

School documents obtained by KIRO 7 show in 2007, Faisal was cleared of wrongdoing after a tenured faculty member accused him of "unwanted touching."

An outside investigator called it "quite objectionable" but not "harassment or discrimination."

In 2013, an outside investigator said Jaswal did violate school policy when he "forcefully" grabbed an employee by her arm at a student retreat after he felt she was being "disrespectful."

She later wrote to college leadership that the school’s response lacked "tangible steps for protection."

Three years later, in 2016, another employee filed a complaint that said Jaswal was "dismissive" toward women and treated women "differently than men."

School documents show this employee previously told Faisal's boss that he demeaned and yelled at the assistant who filed the current lawsuit.

An outside investigator was brought in but didn't prove her claims and noted the "behavior not severe or pervasive to violate policy."

The employee wrote a letter to the school before quitting, saying, "It feels like the college is purposefully subjecting its students and its staff to harassment."

"Everyone knows their unofficial motto is that human resources are there to protect the institution, at all costs,” said the Bellevue College employee who asked not to be named.

Faisal stayed on campus until August of last year after his assistant's complaint to the school. He was then put on administrative home assignment.

President Jerry Weber told the college that Faisal was given a termination notice in November.

But two weeks later, the Vice President of Student Affairs sent out a goodbye note from Faisal that told staff he was retiring for "health and family reasons."

School records show he was given the option of keeping his benefits.

KIRO 7 tried to speak with Jaswal at his home, but no one answered the door. Our repeated phone calls to Jaswal were not returned. He didn’t respond to email either.

However, we did start to receive phone calls from women in support of Jaswal, like Candace Stewart.

She said she worked with Faisal and his assistant at Bellevue College before retiring in 2014 and doesn't believe the accusations.

"You didn't see him harass any women?" asked KIRO 7 reporter Michael Spears.

"Oh no,” said Stewart.

"Why would these women say that?” asked Spears.

"Well if you can sue easily,” said Stewart. “They wanted money. "

She did agree with one thing detailed in complaints to the school.

"I think there were issues in HR because they weren't listening,” said Stewart.

Dr. Jerry Weber, Bellevue College's President, was hired last year, and initially said no to an interview with KIRO 7 because of “ongoing litigation and his “schedule.”

Dr. Weber agreed to speak with us after we went to his office on campus but said the lawsuit prevented him from answering our questions about claims that the college allowed behavior like harassment on campus.

"Yes or no, did you feel human resources here had an issue as far as handling and properly addressing complaints?” asked KIRO 7 reporter Michael Spears.

"You know, I can't really answer that, to tell you the truth, and all of that is bound up anyway into this lawsuit,” said Weber.

"We want the community to know that there are faculty and staff who care about students,” said the current Bellevue College employee who did not want to be named.

She's hopeful for change but will be watching to see how the school moves forward.

"The way that they have moved in terms of creating this atmosphere of fear going to stop,” she said.

Because KIRO 7 asked questions, we did learn that Bellevue College recently reviewed and made changes to its anti-discrimination procedures.

In a statement, Bellevue College said:

"Over the past eight months, representatives from Human Resources, Student Services, Title IX, and the Office of Equity & Pluralism have engaged in a concerted effort to review and update the College's anti-discrimination policies and procedures, which are intended to address all allegations of discrimination and harassment based upon membership in a protected class, as well as allegations of retaliation for participation in the anti-discrimination resolution process.  The College Cabinet adopted and implemented the newly revised anti-discrimination procedures in June 2018.  
"The Board will be conducting its final review of the revamped anti-discrimination policy at its regularly scheduled October meeting.  The proposed policy clarifies that its purpose is to address allegations of discrimination and harassment based on membership in a protected class, which include gender discrimination and sexual misconduct, as well as allegations of retaliation against individuals who participate in the anti-discrimination complaint resolution process.  The revisions also align definitions in the College's anti-discrimination policy and procedures with definitions of harassment, discrimination, retaliation in the College's Code of Student Conduct, ensuring that the College's anti-discrimination policy and procedures apply uniformly to all members of the college community.  
"The new policy and procedures also contain provisions ensuring that impacted parties receive information about the resolution process and referrals to support services; that investigations are conducted in a timely, fair, and equitable manner for all parties; and that the College follows practices that minimize the risk of re-traumatization to the impacted party and keep them informed about the progress of the investigation."

Bellevue College said these changes were not made because of the current lawsuit.

The school told KIRO 7 it also recently received a $300,000 grant from the Justice Department for more training around sexual violence, harassment and discrimination.

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