Washington & Lee University has settled with a male former student who claimed he was railroaded by the school’s disciplinary process and expelled after a female student falsely accused him of rape.
The terms of the settlement were said to be confidential, but the university released a statement saying both sides acknowledged no misconduct by a key university official.
The male student – identified only as “John Doe” – contended he was brought up on charges based only on the accuser’s regret over consensual sex and that irregularities in the discipline process led to his expulsion.
U.S. District Judge Norman Moon ruled in August that the former student had alleged “a host of flaws in W&L’s handling of his case,” but he said the plaintiff would need to show those errors were caused by gender bias to prevail in his Title IX bias claims.
Just last month, however, the court blocked Doe’s efforts to uncover internal school documents.
Doe’s lawyers said the documents had “possible evidence of unlawful gender bias that lies at the heart of his claims.”
W&L lawyers said the bid for access appeared to assume W&L hid “certain ‘gotcha’ documents” that would win the plaintiff’s case.
“This is simply not the case,” wrote Charlottesville lawyer Melissa Wolf Riley.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert S. Ballou ruled Jan. 20 that the documents sought were protected by the attorney-client and attorney work product privileges.
Settlement followed. Doe asked Moon to dismiss the case with prejudice Feb. 4. Doe attorney G. Robert Gage of New York said the parties had “compromised and settled all matters in controversy between them.”
W&L General Counsel Leanne Shank said the school maintained throughout that its officials did not conduct a gender-biased investigation or discipline process.
“After extensive discovery, the parties acknowledge that Lauren Kozak, the University’s Title IX coordinator who also served as one of the investigators for the allegations against John Doe, discharged her obligations professionally at all times in this matter and did nothing to the prejudice of John Doe, either by her statements or actions,” Shank said.
According to Shank, Doe also acknowledged that Kozak was not present when the rape accuser allegedly heard an advocate postulate that “regret equals rape.”
“The University has at all times during the litigation contended that its policies and procedures are consistent with best practices for higher education institutions. We are pleased that this matter has been resolved in a manner that affirms our commitment to provide a safe and respectful community for our faculty, staff, and students,” Shank said.