Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Title IX Lawsuit Challenges Berkeley's Response to Sexual Assault

Three female plaintiffs, all former students, have sued the University of California at Berkeley alleging that in each of their cases, the University failed to respond adequately to their reports of having been sexually assaulted. 

The first plaintiff alleged that the the university's failure to communicate reporting procedures caused several months to go by before she was able to report that she had woken up to a man touching her after a university event.  Then, she says, the university shut her out of investigation and disciplined the offender with only probation.

The second plaintiff alleged that when she reported sexual misconduct of a visiting lecturer, the Title IX Coordinator admonished her for not clearly withholding consent, instead of investigating and disciplining the lecturer for groping her even though she had not actively granted consent.

The third plaintiff also alleges that she was shut out of the investigation the university conducted into her claim that she had been raped by a fellow-student acquaintance. Moreover, she challenges the fact that his suspension was only temporary (a year and a half) and that he will be allowed to return to campus -- notwithstanding the fact that rape kit evidence indicated that trauma had ensued.

The plaintiffs all claim that the university violated Title IX. in each of their cases.  Because their lawsuit seeks to hold Berkeley accountable for money damages, they must satisfy the "deliberate indifference" standard used by courts in such cases.  This standard can often be difficult to satisfy and not necessarily satisfied by allegations of inadequacies that would constitute violations of  the Department of Education's Dear Colleague Letter.