Title IX; Investigations; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence
John Doe v. Rider University (D.N.J. Jan. 17, 2018)
Unpublished Opinion granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a Rider University (RU) student who was expelled for sexual assault, brought claims against RU for sex discrimination in violation of Title IX under the theories of erroneous outcome, selective enforcement, and deliberate indifference; negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress; and a number of contract claims, arising from RU’s investigation and adjudication of a sexual assault complaint against Plaintiff. The court found that all of Plaintiff’s Title IX claims failed because he did not sufficiently show that gender bias motivated Defendant’s conduct, either in statements made by administrators or through any patterns of RU’s decision-making. However, the court allowed Plaintiff’s breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing claims to proceed, based on two provisions in RU’s Policy and Student Handbook. In support of these claims, Plaintiff posited that the investigator assigned to his case did not follow-up on the complainant’s inconsistent statements and the Board members overseeing his case directly reported to the Dean of Students, who stated to Plaintiff that he was “going against” him.
Investigations; Title IX; Race and National Origin Discrimination; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence
John Doe v. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (E.D. Pa. September 13, 2017)
Memorandum granting in part and denying in part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, an African-American student at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), alleged that the University breached its contractual obligation to provide a “fundamentally fair” disciplinary process; violated Title IX under theories of erroneous outcome, selective enforcement, and deliberate indifference; racially discriminated against Plaintiff under Title VI; and committed various torts, when the University suspended him for violating the institution’s Sexual Violence Policy. In support of his contract claim, Plaintiff alleged that Penn neglected to provide Plaintiff with a “fair” disciplinary process. Although finding that the Student Disciplinary Procedures constituted a contract between the parties, the court dismissed all of Plaintiff’s breach of contract claims except those regarding Defendant’s contractual obligation to conduct a thorough investigation, to train investigators and hearing panel members, and to provide a process free of gender bias or discrimination. Turing to Plaintiff’s Title IX claims, the court found Plaintiff’s allegations regarding biased training materials and a pro-complainant disposition sufficiently implicated gender bias such that the action could proceed under a theory of erroneous outcome. Although acknowledging that Plaintiff had not identified a similarly situated comparator, the court nonetheless allowed Plaintiff’s selective enforcement claim to proceed to discovery, although it dismissed the accompanying deliberate indifference claim, expressing “skepticism” about whether a respondent can bring such a claim for a cause of action arising out of dissatisfaction with the initiation and outcome of a disciplinary proceeding. The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s Title VI claim for failure to allege facts that support an inference of race discrimination, despite Plaintiff’s allegations that a different credibility standard was applied to him based on race.