In a rare judicial file, the Ministry of Justice declares that the UNL misapplies the jurisprudence of Title IX | national
The Justice Department says the University of Nebraska-Lincoln misunderstands the legal theories put forward by nine women, all past or present, and “misapplies case law” in their Title IX lawsuit filed last year.
In April, the school asked a federal judge to dismiss the case, which alleges its investigations and responses into sexual misconduct and harassment were insufficient.
“Dismissal is the appropriate response to a case in which a complainant alleges willful indifference but in reality simply does not agree with the outcome achieved by the school,” said UNL attorneys Susan Sapp, Lily Amare and Bren Chambers in a memoir.
UNL lawyers argue that the women did not make plausible claims for Title IX damages under the case law governing peer-to-peer sexual harassment complaints, in part because UNL was unaware that stalkers posed a substantial risk of sexual harassment prior to the alleged assaults and because a single case of sexual misconduct cannot qualify as “serious and widespread” harassment.
But, in a rare case on Friday, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Brigid Benincasa of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said instead that case law makes it clear that a single rape or sexual assault can meet the standard. And the women’s claims involve the UNL’s response after the assaults.
Although the DOJ did not take a position on whether the allegations pointed to plausible claims for Title IX damages, Benincasa said the DOJ was submitting the statement, similar to an amicus brief. , to explain the legal standards governing sexual harassment by peers and claims for retaliation for damages under Title IX and how they apply to the claims in this case.
“The United States has an important interest in the correct interpretation of Title IX and in ensuring that federally funded schools meet their Title IX obligations to provide a safe and non-discriminatory learning environment by responding in a manner. appropriate to reports of gender discrimination, ”wrote Benincasa.
She said the UNL mistakenly confused the separate standards for post-assault claims, which focus on how a school responds after learning of a sexual assault, and pre-assault claims, which focus on what the school knew before a sexual assault.
Because the women make allegations after the assault, about the UNL’s response to the reports, they need only allege that the UNL had a “deliberately indifferent response” that left them vulnerable to harm. possible further harassment, said Benincasa. Not that they were harassed a second time by the same stalker, as UNL argues.
In a statement released on Monday, a spokesperson for UNL said: “We remain confident in our legal position and are pleased that the vast majority of claims have been dropped by plaintiffs. Beyond that, we cannot comment on pending disputes. “
The nine complainants allege that they were raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed and / or harassed by other UNL students, and that after the misconduct was reported, six of them took action. ‘subject to reprisals or harassment by their peers.
Five say the UNL did not investigate the reported retaliation and harassment, including the harassment that led to a serious physical assault on one of the complainants.
On Monday, their lawyer, Karen Truszkowski, said she recognizes this is an important development and appreciates the DOJ’s advice, which could be instructive at the national level.
The allegations first came to light in April 2020 when a Title IX lawsuit was filed against the NCAA in Michigan on behalf of students at UNL and Michigan State University.
Now there are separate lawsuits against the universities in each state.
At least some of the incidents in the Nebraska case name the Husker student-athletes as victims and allege that other athletes, who are not named, of wrongdoing.