Purdue loses summary judgment in female students’ Title IX complaint

Purdue University must face a lawsuit brought by two former students alleging violations of their rights after they were disciplined following their reports of alleged incidents of assault.

Magistrate Judge John E. Martin of the Indiana Northern District Court denied the university’s motions for summary judgment on Thursday in Mary Doe and Nancy Roe v. Purdue University, et al., 4:18-cv-89.

The case began when two female students filed a complaint against the university and multiple administrators alleging they were wrongfully expelled, with their expulsions later being reduced to suspensions, after reporting that they were assaulted by male students in unrelated incidents in 2017.

The plaintiffs separately reported the incidents to Purdue, and according to court documents, the university investigated and found Mary Doe had “fabricated” her allegation while Nancy Roe had “reported [her] assault maliciously.”

The women allege Purdue “has implemented a policy … wherein women who cannot prove their claims to the satisfaction of Purdue decisionmakers face discipline up to expulsion at Purdue,” and assert they both were wrongfully suspended.

After a motion to dismiss was granted in part, the remaining counts allege violations of Title IX, retaliation under Title IX, deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the individuals in their official capacity, and individual § 1983 liability rights.

The parties both filed forms of consent to have the case assigned to a magistrate with the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to conduct all further proceedings and to order the entry of a final judgment in this case.

In the Roe case, Purdue investigators found the then-sophomore, who had a boyfriend, made a false statement after concluding she “initiated the conduct and stated on (a) recording that she not only enjoyed it but wanted to engage in sexual conduct with [Male Student B] in the future. Her consent was affirmative and clear, and there would be no reasonable cause for [Male Student B] to have questioned whether she was consenting to the conduct.”

Roe argued she didn’t consent to sex because she was intoxicated. Also, she said she was unaware that her reporting of the encounter was being considered for disciplinary action against her and that she was denied the opportunity to fully present her position on that issue. Roe was initially expelled but later suspended for two years after an appeal.

The Doe case started when the then-ROTC student reported to her resident assistant and the Purdue University Police Department she felt threatened by Male Student A, with whom she had a consensual sexual relationship with prior to an incident on campus. Doe later reported there was a physical altercation with Male Student A, who also had a protective order against him restricting him from being on Purdue’s campus.

Doe, a freshman at the time, was initially expelled and later suspended after Purdue found she “had violated the Anti-Harassment Policy by knowingly making various false statements” during the investigation. The former student claimed she was unaware that her reporting of the encounter was being considered for disciplinary action against her, like Roe, and that she was repeatedly advised that her participation in the investigation was voluntary, and as a result she was denied the opportunity to fully present her position on that issue.

A status conference has been scheduled for Feb. 10 after the Indiana Northern District Court denied the motions for summary judgment.

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