The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a lower decision not to dismiss two women’s Title IX lawsuit against Kansas State University.
The plaintiffs, two former K-State students, allege that KSU officials did not take reasonable action to investigate when they reported being raped by other students — violating Title IX. They say the university would not investigate because the fraternity houses at which the crimes occurred were off-campus, and that the resulting fear of being in their attackers’ presence on campus deprived them of opportunities at the school. Jared Gihring was sentenced to nearly 13 years in 2017 for one of those crimes.
Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination by educational institutions receiving federal dollars. Fund recipients can also be liable for damages for a “deliberately indifferent response to known sexual harassment by students against other students.”
The court did not address the actual allegations of deliberate indifference as during motions of judgment all allegations by the plaintiffs are assumed to be true for the sake of procedure.
The KSU legal team argued that the plaintiffs had to demonstrate that the institution’s indifference, which hasn’t been ruled on, had to lead to further harassment or assault in order to prove they were deprived of educational opportunities. They asked for a dismissal of all claims. The court, however, cited precedent that the indifference only had to make the plaintiffs “liable or vulnerable” to it — which the court says they adequately did.
“Plaintiffs have met that pleading requirement here by alleging, among other things, that KSU’s deliberate indifference caused them objectively to fear encountering their unchecked assailants on campus, which in turn caused Plaintiffs to stop participating in the educational opportunities KSU offered its students.”
KSU officials were not available for comment, but released a written statement to KMAN.
“The court’s narrow legal ruling did not determine the facts of the case or that the university committed any error. K-State cares about its students and always provides a wealth of support. The university offered numerous resources and support to these plaintiffs, who both went on to graduate from K-State. The university is committed to complying with anti-discrimination laws. K-State respectfully disagrees with the court’s decision on the discrete legal issue and believes it is contrary to other court decisions. K-State is reviewing its options for next steps in the cases.”
Read the court’s full opinion here.