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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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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Student Housing; Students; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Jane Doe 7 v. University of Kansas (D. Kan. September 13, 2017)

Memorandum and Order partially denying Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss and deferring judgment on Defendant’s argument under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act (KCPA). Plaintiff, a student of the University of Kansas (KU),was sexually assaulted in a KU residence hall. She joined a class action lawsuit alleging that the University violated the KCPA by purportedly making false representations about the safety of the university’s residence halls. Plaintiff previously filed an individual claim in state court, which was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.  In the present case, the Defendant sought to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim under the doctrine of res judicata.  Because the state court’s dismissal for lack of constitutional standing was not a decision on the merits, the court allowed Plaintiff’s claim under the KCPA to proceed. However, it deferred judgment on the merits, granting Plaintiff leave to amend complaint to allege with particularity facts giving rise to a violation of the KCPA. 

9/20/2017
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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Students

Letter from State Attorneys General to the Department of Education on Protections for Sexual Misconduct Survivors (July 19, 2017)

Letter from twenty state attorneys general to the U.S. Department of Education Secretary on concerns over reports that the Department is planning to roll back protections for student survivors of sexual misconduct. The letter states that while the attorneys general recognize that there is room for improvement, a “rushed, poorly-considered effort to roll back current policies sends precisely the wrong message to all students.” The attorneys general say they are committed to working with the Department to address sexual misconduct on campuses and urge the Department to engage with stakeholders before taking any action.

7/21/2017
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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Students; Title IX; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Mancini v. Rollins College (M.D. Fla. July 20, 2017)

Order granting in part and denying in part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. A female student at Rollins College accused a male student of engaging in non-consensual sexual activity with her in his dorm. An investigation ensued and the male student was eventually suspended. Insisting that the accusation was false, the male student filed suit, claiming that the investigation was flawed and that the College imposed unduly harsh sanctions without a hearing or an opportunity for Plaintiff to submit mitigating information. The court dismissed Plaintiff’s erroneous decision claim after observing that allegations of a national bias against males based on the Office for Civil Rights’ 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, without additional allegations of community pressure targeting the university,  “have been found insufficient to support an inference of gender bias.” However, the court afforded Plaintiff an opportunity to replead his Title IX claim based on a selective enforcement theory because the Complaint contained no mention of a comparator. 

7/21/2017
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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Title IX; Students; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Equal Protection; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Austin v. University of Oregon (D. Or. June 7, 2017)

Opinion and Order dismissing Plaintiffs’ Complaint with prejudice. The University of Oregon effectively expelled three male student-athletes who were found responsible for engaging in sexual misconduct. The student-athletes filed suit against the University and four individually-named Defendants, claiming that Defendants stripped them of their positions at the Division I institution, ruined their chances of being drafted into the National Basketball Association, associated them with suspension and sexual assault, and caused them past and future personal and professional harm, all on the basis of their gender. The district court previously dismissed the Plaintiffs’ Complaint, finding that Plaintiffs failed to allege that Defendants had violated a “clearly established right” and that their “mere allegation of a pattern of discrimination against males accused of sexual misconduct” was not sufficient to support a Title IX claim. Plaintiffs amended their original Complaint to include new factual allegations supporting a theory of gender discrimination based on 1) alleged public pressure on the University to reprimand accused male students, and 2) disparate treatment of female accusers and male accused students. The district court found that these new allegations did not cure the deficiencies in the previous Complaint. 

7/6/2017
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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Title IX; Students; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Letter from OCR to Liberty University on Investigation Closure (June 15, 2017)

Letter from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to the President of Liberty University notifying the University that the Office has closed its investigation of a complaint alleging that the University discriminated on the basis of sex by failing to “promptly and equitably” respond to reports of sexual misconduct. Because the Complainant was not a student at the University and did not have any “meaningful or sustained contact” with the University when the alleged misconduct occurred, and because the alleged misconduct did not occur on the University’s campus, OCR determined that it did not have jurisdiction over the matter. 

6/22/2017
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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Students; Title IX; Campus Police & Relationships with Local Law Enforcement; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Ross v. University of Tulsa (10th Cir. June 20, 2017)

Opinion affirming the district court’s award of summary judgment to the University of Tulsa. A female student reported that she was the victim of sexual misconduct by a male student at the University. She later learned that two student athletes had informed campus-security officers of alleged sexual misconduct by the same student, but the officers dropped the investigation at the request of the alleged victim. Plaintiff sued the University under Title IX, claiming that the University acted with deliberate indifference when it failed to investigate a prior report of sexual misconduct and when it excluded evidence of that report from the student conduct hearing held in response to Plaintiff’s report. The Tenth Circuit determined that both claims failed as a matter of law. Although the Court acknowledged that a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that dropping the previous investigation was clearly unreasonable, it found that the officers did not have the authority to take corrective action in response to the report. Regarding Plaintiff’s second claim, the University excluded prior reports of sexual harassment based on a reasonable application of university policy, and therefore had not acted with deliberate indifference in doing so. 

6/22/2017
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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Title IX; Students; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Pacheco v. St. Mary’s University (W.D. Tex. June 20, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion granting Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a male student at St. Mary's University, was suspended following a finding that he committed violations of the University's Code of Conduct for sexually harassing a fellow student. The two students were found partially clothed and intoxicated in the Plaintiff’s dorm room by other student residents and the female student’s sorority sister. Plaintiff sued St. Mary’s and two officers of its campus police department, claiming that the University’s investigatory and disciplinary procedures discriminate against male students accused of sexual misconduct based on their sex. His Complaint raised claims of Title IX violations, violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and violations of state contract and tort law. After concluding that the McDonnell Douglas Corp v. Green burden-shifting analysis applies to Title IX claims alleging discriminatory treatment of students based on sex, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s disparate impact claims against the University because Title IX, like Title VII, requires a showing of intentional discrimination.  The court also rejected Plaintiff’s Title IX claim based on erroneous outcome and selective enforcement theories because Plaintiff failed to present evidence casting doubt on the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings, indicating that gender was a motivating factor in the alleged erroneous outcome, or showing that the alleged comparator—the female accuser—was treated more favorably under similar circumstances. 

6/22/2017
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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Title IX; Due Process; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Constitutional Issues

Recommendations by the American Bar Association Task Force on College Due Process and Victim Protection (June 2017)

Recommendations published by the American Bar Association (ABA) Task Force on Campus Due Process and Victim Protection. The ABA convened the Task Force to provide colleges and universities with guidelines on resolving allegations of sexual misconduct on campus. Topics covered include the institution’s right and responsibility to address sexual misconduct, options for resolving allegations, procedural protections for both the accuser and the accused, guidelines for determining whether a violation occurred, and sanctions. On the standard of proof issue, the Task Force favors an arrangement where the standard applied is based on the type of adjudicatory model used.

6/20/2017
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