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New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Jane Doe v. University of Notre Dame Du Lac (N.D. Ind. May 11, 2018)

Opinion and Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, an undergraduate student at Holy Cross College who sought to transfer to Notre Dame under a transfer enrollment program between the two institutions, alleged under Title IX that Notre Dame’s handling of her report that she had been sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player was deliberately indifferent. The court noted the “unusual circumstance” in which Plaintiff sought to hold Notre Dame liable—specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Notre Dame’s decision to investigate the incident was deliberately indifferent to her wish to keep the matter private. The court found that Notre Dame’s decision to investigate the matter was not “clearly unreasonable” in light of its independent obligation to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct, especially since Notre Dame received notice of two separate reports of sexual misconduct by the same assailant. The court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction on Plaintiff’s remaining state law claims.

5/16/2018
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Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; First Amendment & Free Speech; Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Hyman v. Cornell Univ. (2nd Cir., May 9, 2018)

Summary Order affirming the judgment of the district court.  Hyman (Plaintiff) sued Cornell University and seventeen other University employees (Defendants) alleging First Amendment and Title IX violations when her report of sexual harassment against one of the Defendants was dismissed and when she was sanctioned by the school for harassing him.  Plaintiff’s suit was dismissed by the district court as barred by res judicata because her claims relied on the same operative facts as a previous suit she had filed against the University and one of the named Defendants.  Plaintiff appealed both the dismissal and denial of reconsideration by the district court.  Plaintiff attempted to overcome res judicata by pointing to additional allegations in the suit that post-date her first suit and by naming sixteen additional defendants in the suit that were not named in the first.  The court found that the addition of new facts were from substantially the same transaction or occurrence and even though they post-date the first claim, do not amount to a new claim.  In addition, citing the principle of privity, the court found that the naming of sixteen additional defendants did not overcome claim preclusion because all the named defendants are “[University] professors and administrators whose ‘interests were adequately represented’ by [the University] in the first suit.”  The court found no error in the district court’s denial of reconsideration.

5/11/2018
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First Amendment & Free Speech; Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Sex Discrimination; Due Process; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Constitutional Issues

Doe v. Distefano (D. Colo. May 7, 2018)

Order granting in part and denying in part Defendant’s motion to dismiss.  Plaintiff, a male student at the University of Colorado, Boulder (University), sued after he was expelled for sexually assaulting two female students, claiming that the University’s investigation and its outcome violated Title IX because both were “motivated by pervasive anti-male bias amounting to sex discrimination.” Plaintiff also claimed a procedural due process violation and requested the Court order Defendant to purge an adverse notation from his transcript.  The court granted Defendants’ motion on the portion of Plaintiff’s claim based on the assertion that “[a] person has a protected liberty interest in his good name, reputation, honor and integrity” because Plaintiff failed to contest Defendant’s counterarguments in his reply and because “[h]arm to reputation alone is not the sort of harm that supports a procedural due process claim…[under] the so-called ‘stigma plus’ test.” However, the court denied the motion as to the portion of Plaintiff’s claim based on a property interest because Defendant failed to engage the question raised by Plaintiff “whether this context—wherein a plaintiff is accused of conduct which may form the basis for criminal prosecution—changes the Mathews v. Eldridge [due process] calculus in a manner requiring more than minimal notice and an opportunity to respond” and because “Plaintiff’s accusations, taken together, create a plausible inference of bias against those accused of sexual misconduct.” 

5/11/2018
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Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

John Doe v. George Washington University (D.D.C. April 25, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion denying Plaintiff’s Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.  After a George Washington University (GWU) hearing panel found Plaintiff Doe responsible for sexual assault, GWU sanctioned Plaintiff to a 1-year suspension, which delayed the conference of his degree, though Plaintiff had completed all coursework.  Plaintiff Doe sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin his suspension until his Title IX, D.C. Human Rights Act, breach of contract, and negligence claims could be resolved.  In denying the injunction, the court concluded that Doe was unlikely to succeed on the merits of all but one claim--his breach of contract claims with respect to his appeal.  On that claim, GWU neither considered a new witness affidavit nor expert report, because these documents were not “brand-new [and] previously unavailable evidence.” The Court characterized GWU’s interpretation of the “new evidence” provision in the Code to be a “strict lawyer’s interpretation” that “contradicts the plain language of the Code.”  Though finding Plaintiff was likely to succeed on his breach of contract claim, the court denied the injunction since the one-year gap between the completion of Plaintiff’s coursework and the start of graduate school did not amount to irreparable harm, since such gaps “happen normally in the lives of students.”  While the court found that both parties asserted strong public interests, the court found that the balance of harms weighed in favor of GWU.

5/3/2018
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Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Retaliation; Sex Discrimination

Jane Doe v. Prairie View A&M University and Johnson (S.D. Tex. April 25, 2018)

Memorandum and Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendant Prairie View A&M University’s Motion to Dismiss and granting Defendant Johnson’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a student at Prairie View A&M University (A&M) who worked as a researcher at the A&M Agricultural Research Center (ARC), alleged that A&M violated Title VII, Title IX, and Texas tort law in its handling of her report of sexual assault by her supervisor at ARC. At issue was whether Plaintiff’s sexual harassment claims could proceed under both Title VII and Title IX because, as Defendants argued, Plaintiff interacted with her supervisor as an employee of ARC and Title VII afforded her an exclusive remedy for employment discrimination under 5th Circuit precedent in Lakowski v. James.  Distinguishing Lakowski, the court allowed Plaintiff’s Title IX claim to proceed because as a student employed in a job tied to her education, she sufficiently alleged that she was denied the benefits of her educational program and “Title VII alone would not account for all these harms.” The court advanced Plaintiff’s Title IX retaliation claim under the same analysis. Consistent with Texas law, the court dismissed Defendant Johnson since Plaintiff’s claims against him arose from the same subject matter as claims brought against Defendant A&M.

4/30/2018
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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Title IX; Retaliation

Garrett v. Univ. of S. Fla. Bd. of Trs. (M.D. Fla. April 18, 2018)

Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a graduate student at the University of South Florida (USF), alleged under Title IX that USF created a hostile educational environment by responding with deliberate indifference to her claim of student-on-student sexual assault, in part by failing to implement measures that would have banned the respondent from being present on campus.  Plaintiff also alleged that USF retaliated against her by charging her with a conduct violation after she filed the report.  Though characterizing Plaintiff’s allegations as showing that USF “promptly acknowledged and investigated [Plaintiff’s] complaint,” and acknowledging pursuant to Davis “that Title IX affords a plaintiff no ‘right to make particular remedial demands,’” the court nonetheless allowed Plaintiff’s deliberate indifference claim to proceed to discovery for further development.  It dismissed her “clearly unreasonable response to sexual violence” claim as redundant to her “deliberate indifference” claim.  The court allowed Plaintiff’s retaliation claim to proceed, since USF charged Plaintiff with a conduct violation shortly after she complained about USF’s handling of her report of sexual misconduct. 

4/24/2018
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Title IX; FERPA; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Students; Freedom of Information & Public Record Laws; Practice of Higher Education Law

DTH Media Corp. v. Folt (N.C. App. April 17, 2018)

Order affirming-in-part and reversing-in-part the district court’s opinion.  Plaintiffs, North Carolina-based news organizations, filed requests under the state Public Information Act (PIA) to obtain information from the disciplinary records of students who had violated the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) sexual assault policy.  Specifically, Plaintiffs sought the names of students found responsible for violating the policy, the date and nature of each violation, and the sanctions imposed.  Plaintiffs argued that §1232g(b)(6)(B) of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which permits discourse of “the final results of any disciplinary proceeding . . . if the institution determines as a result of the disciplinary  that the student committed a violation of the institution’s rules or policies with respect to [crimes of violence or non-forcible sex offenses],” required disclosure; while Defendants argued that Plaintiff’s interpretation interfered with FERPA’s “implied grant of discretion” to UNC to decide whether to release student disciplinary records.  Finding no case law or legislative history supporting Defendant’s proposed interpretation of FERPA, the court concluded that the records were generally subject to disclosure, with the caveat that the dates of the offenses sought by Plaintiffs were not subject to disclosure under the plain language of the statute. The court also rejected Defendant’s contention that FERPA pre-empted the PIA. 

4/23/2018
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Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Qayumi v. Duke University (M.D. N.C. April 18, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.  Plaintiff, a former student of Duke University, alleged under Title IX that Duke’s response to her sexual assault and unauthorized recording of the assault by two fellow students was deliberately indifferent, negligent, and created a hostile educational environment. The court found that Duke’s response was “not clearly unreasonable,” given that 1) university police officers first approached Plaintiff while investigating two separate instances of sexual misconduct by her assailants; 2) the officers did not pursue charges based on Plaintiff’s initial denial and later, out of respect for Plaintiff’s request for privacy; 3) Duke immediately issued a no-contact order against the students and assigned an outside investigator to handle her charge when Plaintiff filed her complaint two years later; 4) Duke initiated disciplinary proceedings that allowed Plaintiff an opportunity to fully present her testimony; and 5) the disciplinary panel fully and fairly evaluated all the evidence in the case. The court further found that Plaintiff’s negligence and negligence per se claims failed because Duke did not have an affirmative duty to comply with a state statute that dictated certain requirements for a sexual misconduct investigator’s credentials, nor could Plaintiff show that the independent investigator hired by Duke failed to meet the required standard of care or that such a breach proximately caused Plaintiff harm.

4/23/2018
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