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Sixth Circuit Rules in Favor of Student in University of Michigan Title IX Sexual Harassment Case

Sixth Circuit Rules in Favor of Student in University of Michigan Title IX Sexual Harassment Case

The University of Michigan must face claims it was deliberately indifferent to the harassment an MBA student suffered while enrolled in the program, the Sixth Circuit said Wednesday. Engel & Martin successfully represented the alleged victim in the Court of Appeals, reversing a contrary decision by the District Court.

Read the Decision Here: Foster v. Board of Regents of the University of Michigan 

The victim was a student in the university’s Executive MBA program, based in Los Angeles. Students in the program participated in educational “residencies” at a hotel. The harasser began pursuing the victim romantically, escalating to groping and other sexual contact without consent. Believing that this was a violation of Title IX, the feels law prohibiting sex discrimination and sexual harassment on colleges and universities, the victim reported the conduct to the university. The university issued a no-contact order, which the harasser immediately violated.

The harasser sent crude emails and made threats on social media. he then, without permission, appeared at the graduation ceremonies in Ann Arbor. He was arrested but not charged; university police just put him on a plane home.

The court found that although the university initially took action, it failed to act sufficiently after learning that the harasser would not comply with the no contact order. Attorney Joshua Engel, who argued the case, was interviewed by Inside Higher Ed:

The federal court’s opinion makes a statement about how far universities must go to protect their students, said Joshua Engel, Foster’s attorney. If initial measures are not effective in separating a harassing student from a victim, the university is obligated to keep trying until it succeeds, he said.

“It’s a dynamic process,” Engel said. “The school puts in place what seems reasonable, but when the accused student says, ‘I’m not going to follow these rules,’ the school can’t just say, ‘We did something, good luck.’”

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