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Rape victim can’t sue Brown University under Title IX: Court

Rape victim can’t sue Brown University under Title IX: Court

A young woman who was allegedly raped by three Brown University students cannot sue the college under Title IX of the Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination under any education program receiving federal financial assistance, because she was not a Brown student, says a federal appeals court.

In November 2013, “Jane Doe,” a freshman at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, was drugged while socializing with some friends at a bar in Providence, transported by taxi to a Brown University dormitory in Providence and sexually assaulted by three males over an extended period, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in Jane Doe v. Brown University et al.

The assailants were all Brown students and members of Brown’s football team, according to the ruling. Ms. Doe received medical treatment at a Massachusetts hospital shortly thereafter.

In February 2014, Ms. Doe reported the sexual assault to the Providence Police Department, with a Brown University police officer present when she gave a statement to the Providence police.

The Providence police investigation revealed cellphone text messages between the Brown students that referenced rape and contained explicit images of Ms. Doe taken at the time of the alleged sexual assault, according to the ruling.

In June 2014, Brown University notified Ms. Doe she could file a complaint under Browns’ Code of Student Conduct. In response to her query about investigating her sexual assault following Title IX standards, Brown University said it would only conduct an inquiry under the student conduct code.

In June 2016, after her repeated requests for an update on the status of its inquiry, Brown responded it had never completed the investigation and had abandoned any disciplinary action against the students.

Ms. Doe withdrew from Providence College out of fear for her safety and well-being, which she said was a direct result of Brown’s inaction in the matter.

Ms. Doe filed suit against Brown in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island seeking compensatory damages and equitable relief under Title IX. The court granted Brown’s motion to dismiss the case, which a three-judge appeals court panel unanimously upheld.

Ms. Doe cannot claim she has been subjected to discrimination under Brown’s education program because she did not allege she “participated or even would have participated in any of Brown’s education programs or activities,” said the ruling.

“Even accepting all of Doe’s well-pleaded facts as true, her complaint contains no factual allegations as to how Brown’s deliberate indifference” deprived Ms. Doe of access to Brown education activities or benefits, said the ruling.

“Like the district court before us, we also recognize that Doe’s complaint contains very serious allegations of sexual assault on a university’s campus,” the ruling said.

“However, because Doe’s complaint failed to allege sufficient facts for a plausible Title IX claim against Brown, we affirm the judgment of the district court,” the ruling said.


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