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Temporary Restraining Order Prohibits Student’s Suspension in Title IX Case

A suspension or other sanctions imposed by a university as the result of a Title IX accusation can have severe consequences for the accused student.  In some cases, it may be possible to prevent such sanctions, or at least delay them. An Indiana court recently issued a temporary restraining order against a university restraining it from suspending a male student or imposing other sanctions or restrictions against him following a Title IX complaint and investigation.

In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged a large number of procedural errors in the university’s handling of a Title IX complaint against him, including violations of Title IX regulations and the university’s own policies and procedures.  His complaint included allegations of issues in the investigation, hearing, and the appeal process. He alleged the university did not disclose the details of the complaint against him or produce copies of certain evidence. The plaintiff also alleged the university hired individuals from an outside company with a conflict of interest to act as decision-makers, while the university’s policy defined “Decision-Makers” as “members of the three-person panel of trained faculty, staff, and/or administrative officials . . . .”

The plaintiff also alleged the complainant was allowed to testify at the hearing about alleged sexual assaults by the plaintiff against others, alleged rape by the plaintiff, and alleged nonconsensual sexual interactions between the plaintiff and others. The plaintiff alleged the decision-makers did not stop the irrelevant testimony and in fact the Hearing Officer asked questions related to those topics.  The plaintiff alleged the Hearing Officer asked questions that were prohibited by the university’s policy and applicable regulations. The plaintiff also alleged the hearing Officer relied on the complainant’s and her roommate’s testimony about photos that were not in evidence.  His lawsuit also identified numerous alleged issues with how the university processed his appeal.

According to the temporary restraining order, the plaintiff received notice of the suspension less than 72 hours before it would take effect. The plaintiff’s lawsuit was filed on September 24 and his suspension was to take effect on September 25. In the order, the court found the plaintiff would suffer injury and harm without the temporary restraining order, specifically the “[l]oss of current and existing education,” disruption and early end to the current semester, loss of scholarships, and loss of extracurricular activities.  The court found the injury and harm would be immediate and irreparable in part because there is no adequate remedy at law for the loss of education and the suspension was scheduled to begin the day after the order was filed. The court entered the restraining order without a hearing because it was not possible to conduct the hearing before the suspension took effect. The temporary restraining order was scheduled to end at 11:59 p.m. on the date the hearing was originally scheduled. The parties agreed to reschedule the hearing to a later date, so the temporary restraining order was also extended until that date.

This case shows the importance of having experienced legal counsel early in the Title IX process. This plaintiff was able to quickly take legal action despite very short notice and prevent the immediate and irreparable harm of a suspension, at least until he has an opportunity to be heard by the trial court.  If you have been accused of sexual misconduct at your school or university, an experienced Washington Title IX defense attorney can fight to protect your rights and be prepared to take prompt legal action if necessary.  Call Blair & Kim, PLLC, at (206) 622-6562 to schedule a consultation.

 

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