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Discrimination lawsuit against College settled

By Montserrat Castro

A lawsuit against the College for gender discrimination – which had been working its way through the courts since March of 2017 – has been settled. A former student expelled for sexual misconduct had filed the suit.

The student, whose name remains anonymous for privacy purposes and is referred to in court documents as “John Doe,” was represented by the law firms Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP and Babich Goldman. The lawsuit claimed that the College, in deciding to expel John Doe, discriminated against him based on his gender, violating Title IX.

The student’s termination happened three months after the time in which the College was under investigation for potential Title IX violations. In April of 2015, a group of students protested against the lack of penalization of male students who were the subjects of Title IX cases. These students filed a complaint to the Department of Education’s (Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which subsequently started an investigation into the College’s Title IX processes.

John Doe had the first report filed against him a few months after this investigation started. The female student, Jane Doe (also a pseudonym), expressed her discomfort at a consensual sexual interaction that had occurred between them one year prior. The administration decided not to pursue an investigation into Jane Doe’s allegations. Instead, they reviewed it through what they called an “informal resolution,” which, according to Grinnell Policy, is usually the final resolution. However, when a second female student filed another report against him three months later, the College revisited the first report and began an investigation. After analyzing the evidence collected, the adjudicator of the College, in this particular case former Supreme Court Justice Masha Ternus, advised the administration to expel John Doe.

In Doe’s complaint he alleged that the College, in light of and under pressure of being under investigation for their Title IX processes, had coached both female students into accusing him of sexual misconduct. In addition, he said he was wrongly accused of the “predatory pattern” the school found as a result of their investigation.

In November 2018, the College’s lawyers responded to John Doe’s complaint by stating that he lacked enough evidence to prove his termination from the College was a result of bias and gender discrimination. In July 2019, they asked the Court for summary judgment — a way to urge the judge to make a final decision.

In response, however, the Court held that John Doe demonstrated a “genuine dispute” as to whether gender bias contributed to John Doe’s expulsion. In other words, that there could be enough material evidence to prove his claim. This meant the case was headed to a jury trial later this month.

The judge did dismiss one count of Doe’s suit.

On August 1, the College’s lawyers filed a pretrial memorandum on the use of a pseudonym by John Doe. They maintained that, since the parties would be having a public, federal trial, the former student would be obligated to proceed under his real name.

Two weeks later, on the 16th of August, the parties filed a settlement and the case was closed. John Doe remains anonymous and his lawyers declined to comment for this story.

Debra Lukehart, the College’s vice president for communications, did not reply when The S&B reached out for comments.

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  • K

    Keli VitaioliSep 6, 2019 at 3:22 am

    Fucking hilarious that someone would imply title ix would go out of their way to implicate a male student. I have personally been involved in 3 situations where title ix did everything they could to protect abusers under the context of “fairness” and “justice” when in reality what they were protecting was themselves from a lawsuit . Grinnell college does not protect its students — you have to protect each other!
    Love, a continuously concerned alum