A Federal Court in Orlando has denied a motion to dismiss in a Title IX case against Rollins College.
Engel & Martin, LLC is presenting a student who was accused of sexual misconduct by the school. The student denied any misconduct.
The school’s investigation consisted of a series of interviews with Jane Roe and Plaintiff, plus twenty-two witnesses, none of whom had firsthand knowledge of the incident. The lawsuit alleges that the investigation did not tell the whole story but, instead, included irrelevant, inflammatory, and conclusory statements about the student.
The federal district court found that the student had stated a plausible claim under Title IX, the federal statute prohibiting gender discrimination. The court observed that there had been
substantial criticism from the student body and public over how Rollins handled complaints by female students alleging sexual assault by male students motivated Rollins to accept the female student’s accusation of sexual assault and reject the male student’s claim of consent to protect Rollins’ image. Such “criticism” took the form of adverse news coverage, campus meetings or protests, and enforcement actions concerning Rollins. For example, the Amended Complaint points to a USA Today article that quoted a Rollins student describing a “Slut Walk” staged by female students in 2013–14 to protest people justifying rape based on dress, appearance, or intoxication. In 2015, Rollins’ Director of Public Safety published an article in the Orlando Sentinel speaking to some issues, from the school’s perspective, with abiding by federal and state requirements for sexual assault allegations. And in September 2017, the student newspaper published a piece critiquing the Department of Education’s recent changes to Title IX guidance that, from the author’s perspective, would likely lead to increased underreporting of campus sexual assaults and deplete victims’ rights.
The court also found that the student had plausibly claimed that Rollins selectively enforced its rules, suggesting that the school had information about misconduct by both the male student and his accuser, but only pursued discipline against the male student.
Finally, the court allowed the case to proceed on a claim that the school failed to follow its own promises to provide a fair and impartial process.