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Student Denied Injunction Against Expulsion for Alleged Title IX Misrepresentations

Allegations of Title IX violations against a student in Washington can have far-reaching consequences.  As an example, in a recent case, a male student sought to enjoin his medical school from enforcing an expulsion for allegedly misrepresenting the results of a Title IX allegation in an application to the university’s business school.

Following a breakup, “Jane Roe” reported two occurrences of physical violence by her former boyfriend and fellow medical student “John Doe” to the medical school. The school began an investigation soon afterward. The investigator met with the plaintiff four times, and Roe twice.  The plaintiff and Roe were given access to review the Preliminary report in March.  The plaintiff provided a timely response.

In May, the plaintiff attended a hearing with his attorney.  He was allowed to give opening and closing statements, answer questions, and have questions asked of all witnesses, either directly or through the panel chair.

The panel found the plaintiff responsible for dating violence and suspended him for one year.  The plaintiff’s appeal was denied.  He was also required to go before the Student Promotions Committee because he was found to have violated the Sexual Misconduct Policy.  The committee recommended the dismissal.  The Student Promotions Committee and the Student Appeals Committee each denied reconsideration.

The dean granted the plaintiff’s appeal, but placed additional restrictions on him.  The plaintiff was required to take an additional year of administrative leave.  Additionally, if there were any additional violations of the codes of conduct during that leave, he may be unable to return.

The plaintiff applied to the business school during his suspension.  In his application, he stated the dean “overturned the erroneous findings” and that he was authorized to return to the school of medicine “without limitations or restrictions.”  The plaintiff was notified of the discrepancies identified and provided an explanation. The business school denied his application. The dean also dismissed him from the medical school due to the misrepresentations in his business school application.

The plaintiff then sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin enforcement his dismissal. To get a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff must show irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted, inadequacy of remedies at law, and a likelihood of success on the merits.  If he met this burden of proof, the court would balance the harm to the plaintiff if there is no injunction against the harm to the defendant if one is granted.

The plaintiff argued that the medical school’s requirement students complete their pre-clinical and clinical requirements within six years meant he would experience irreparable harm without the injunction. The defendants argued, however, that there are exceptions to that rule.

The plaintiff also provided expert testimony that the chances for a student to become a physician in the U.S. after being expelled from medical school were less than 1% because it was nearly impossible to transfer or start over as a first year student after expulsion.

The appeals court found no showing of irreparable harm because the plaintiff could finish his medical education at the university if he won.  The dean stated the medical school “could and would comply” with an order to reinstate him.  Furthermore, the six-year rule is a school policy and not a legal requirement.  The expert’s opinion was based partly on a belief the plaintiff had to graduate in six years, but the dean said the medical school could make an exception.

The plaintiff also argued it would be nearly impossible for him to transfer to another medical school while the case was ongoing.  The court found this argument to be immaterial because he was asking to be reinstated, not to transfer.

The plaintiff also argued he would likely be unable to get admitted to a residency program even if the medical school made an exception to its six year rule. The defendants argued he already had a gap in his education and an additional gap while the case is pending would not constitute irreparable harm.  The court noted neither the expert nor the defendant provided any reasoning on how a larger gap would further reduce his chances of getting into a residency program.

The court found the plaintiff’s arguments were based on the six year rule, but, because there could be an exception to that rule, he had failed to show he would suffer irreparable harm if not reinstated immediately.

The court also found the plaintiff failed to make a strong showing of his likelihood to win on the merits.  The court noted that the plaintiff’s expulsion was not based on the Title IX violation.  He was instead expelled for the misrepresentations in his business school application. The issue, then, was whether he made a strong showing of likelihood he would win the due process claim based on his dismissal for misrepresentations in his business school application.

The plaintiff would have to show that the medical school deprived him of a property interest or liberty interest.  The court found the plaintiff had not made a strong showing of a property interest or liberty interest. The court further found he had not shown the medical school’s actions deprived him of his fundamental rights. The court found the plaintiff’s dismissal was academic, and therefore not subject to the same procedural due process requirements as a disciplinary dismissal. The court also noted the plaintiff had notice of what would occur if he violated the code of conduct and was given an opportunity to explain the misrepresentations after they were discovered.  He therefore had an opportunity to be heard, which was greater due process than required by the Constitution.

The plaintiff did not meet his burden of showing a likelihood of success on the merits.

The court denied the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

Because the consequences of a Title IX allegation can reach far beyond the resulting Title IX disciplinary action, it is important to have experienced representation on your side throughout the process.  Call the skilled Washington Title IX defense attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC, at (206) 622-6562 to discuss your case.

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