Doe v. Amherst Coll.

238 F. Supp. 3d 195 (D. Mass. 2017)

 

RULE:

Courts increasingly see claims brought pursuant to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) by male students who have been found responsible and disciplined for violating a college's sexual misconduct policies. To succeed on an erroneous outcome claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate there was (1) a flawed proceeding that (2) led to an erroneous outcome that was adverse to the plaintiff and (3) specific circumstances causally connecting gender bias to the erroneous outcome. Unlike an erroneous outcome claim, a plaintiff can prevail on a selective enforcement claim without disturbing the factual findings made in a disciplinary proceeding.

FACTS:

Sandra Jones, a student filed a complaint against another freshman student (Doe) accusing him of sexual misconduct. She alleged that she engaged in consensual sexual activities with Doe, but that Doe continued the activity even after she withdrew her consent. Doe has consistently claimed he had consumed so much alcohol that he "blacked out" and could not remember a large portion of the night, including the time during which he interacted with Jones. The College initiated an expedited disciplinary proceeding against Doe under a set of recently amended policies incorporated in its student handbook (the "Student Handbook"). The College's Sexual Misconduct Hearing Board found Doe "responsible, by a preponderance of the evidence and expelled him from school. Doe appealed his expulsion but this was denied by the college. Several months later, Doe received copies of text messages sent by Jones to another student shortly after he had departed from her room after the incident at issue. The text messages raises additional questions about the credibility of the version of events Jones gave during the disciplinary proceeding against Doe. The text messages had not been provided to the investigator and the investigator had not interviewed the individual who received them. Based in part on the existence and content of the text messages, Doe requested the College reopen his disciplinary proceedings. Doe asserted the discovery of these text messages raises questions about the adequacy of the investigation. The College declined to do so and Doe filed a complaint stating claims against the College and various individuals. Doe alleged that he was subjected to a biased disciplinary process set into motion and conducted to ensure the College would expel a male student accused of sexual misconduct, regardless of the specific facts, and this process violated his contract with the College and his rights under both federal and state law. The College and the individual defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.

ISSUE:

Should the Court grant the defendants’ Motion for Judgment?

ANSWER:

Yes and No.

CONCLUSION:

The Court allowed the defendant’s motion for judgment, in part and also, denied in part. On claims arising out of plaintiff's expulsion from college after a disciplinary hearing based on a complaint accusing him of sexual misconduct, the court denied defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings with respect to his breach of contract claims because he alleged sufficient facts in support of his assertion that a student reading the student handbook would expect the college to conduct its investigation and fact-finding process in such a manner that potentially exculpatory information would be obtained and presented to the hearing board in the same manner as inculpatory information. Motion was also denied because he alleged sufficient facts to supply the necessary nexus between gender bias and the hearing outcome. 

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