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Male student can sue W&L for Title IX bias

A Washington & Lee male college student can sue the university for gender bias under Title IX for expelling him on a finding of sexual misconduct.

Suing as John Doe, the student alleged W&L felt pressure to act, as several Virginia universities were under investigation for violating Title IX in their handling of female students’ sexual assault complaints, and W&L had appointed its own Title IX officer, Lauren Kozak.

Doe alleged he had a consensual sexual encounter with a female student on Feb. 8, 2014, after an off-campus party, and the two continued to communicate in a friendly fashion and had sex again in March.

The female student, Jane Doe, spent her 2014 summer break working at a women’s clinic that dealt with sexual assault issues, according to the suit. John Doe also asserted that on Oct. 5, 2014, Jane Doe attended a presentation put on by Kozak, which involved discussion of a “new idea” that “regret equals rape.”

On Oct. 13, 2014, Jane Doe contacted Kozak to report that John Doe had sexually assaulted her eight months earlier. The matter proceeded through the university disciplinary process and – one day after the Rolling Stone article about U.Va., “A Rape on Campus,” hit the news, the plaintiff said – the university found John Doe guilty of nonconsensual sexual intercourse warranting expulsion.

John Doe alleges that “W&L’s investigation and hearing occurred in an environment that created pressure for the university to punish male students for sexual misconduct,” and that W&L wanted to find him responsible for sexual assault in order to avoid the kind of negative publicity generated by the now-debunked Rolling Stone story.

Given John Doe’s allegations about a defective process, as well as his charge “that W&L was under pressure from the government to convict male students of sexual assault, a reasonable fact finder could plausibly determine that Plaintiff was wrongly found responsible for sexual misconduct and that this erroneous finding was motivated by gender bias,” wrote Judge Norman K. Moon said in his Aug. 5 opinion refusing to dismiss John Doe’s Title IX claim.

The judge, however, dismissed Doe’s complaints of breach of contract and violation of Fifth Amendment due process protections by the private university. The case is Doe v. Washington and Lee University.

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