Penn State has settled a civil lawsuit over the University’s handling
of sexual misconduct allegations involving students, according to a settlement
notice filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The out-of-court agreement resolves one of three lawsuits filed against
the University over claims it poorly handles allegations, investigations,
and administrative disciplinary proceedings for
Title IX offenses.
The Underlying Title IX Case
The settlement stems from a federal lawsuit filed by one plaintiff, identified as John
Doe, who claimed he was suspended and expelled from a pre-med program
affiliated with Kimmel Medical College due to Penn State administrators’
poor handling of the Title IX disciplinary process.
According to court records, Doe allegedly engaged in nonconsensual sex
with a female student in her dormitory in the Fall of 2016. Doe said he
arrived at his classmate’s room after receiving a text message suggesting
they study together, and further claimed she attempted to seduce him.
She reported Doe tried to kiss her, and subsequently groped her without
consent by putting his hand under her clothes.
The allegation ultimately resulted in a determination that Doe had violated
Penn State’s Student Code of Conduct, as well as sanctions and suspension.
For a free legal consultation, call 614-675-4845
The Suit Against Penn State
After the disciplinary proceedings, Doe filed suit against the school,
claiming Penn State’s investigation and disciplinary process unfairly
favors women, and that it violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process.
School officials denied any form of gender bias in its handling of sexual
misconduct allegations, and declared publicly that the investigation had
been “fundamentally fair.”
As was the case with Doe, Penn State’s process for handling sexual
misconduct claims involves:
- An investigator who prepares a report and gathers evidence related to sexual
misconduct allegations among students, as well as faculty and others subject
to Title IX;
- A case manager who determines whether the Student Code of Conduct was violated
based on the final report; and
- A Title IX hearing panel, held when respondents contest “charges,”
to decide cases and impose sanctions.
Though the Title IX panel in this case banned Doe from campus housing,
the pre-med program, and the Fall semester, a preliminary injunction prevented
Penn State from enforcing the sanctions. The school later abandoned plans
to retry the matter. Two additional lawsuits raising similar challenges
to the schools’ disciplinary process are currently pending in federal court.
Title IX Cases in Ohio
Title IX cases have always been complex, but the ever-changing social and
legal landscape surrounding them often make these matters even more turbulent,
as does added scrutiny from the Department of Education. Today, schools
face tremendous pressure to resolve allegations, even if they are not
always equipped with the tools, resources, or tailored policies needed
to effectively address the details of every case – while balancing
the rights of both parties involved.
Though Title IX cases are not criminal proceedings, they do function in
similar ways – providing parties with rights during the investigation,
disciplinary, and hearing process, and exposing respondents to serious
potential penalties that can have long-term consequences. Likewise, they
demand experienced representation.
At Koffel Brininger Nesbitt, our award-winning Columbus Attorneys represent
Title IX proceedings, and are available to discuss your case and rights personally during a
Call (614) 675-4845 or
contact us online to speak with a lawyer.