Senior prom! It’s supposed to be so magical. Not so much for one Minnesota school this year. This particular case illustrates an important point about being even-handed when it comes to investigations of student misconduct and discipline.
The case involved a high school senior who was suspended indefinitely for his behavior at a school dance. The student readily admitted that he came to the dance drunk, “danced aggressively,” and ran twice from police. However, he adamantly denied allegations that he groped one girl and sexually harassed another. Student sues.
Slam dunk for the school, right? Not so fast. Doe alleged that the school’s investigation into these allegations and its disciplinary process were flawed and discriminatory in violation of Title IX, Title VI, and state law. At the outset of the case, the student asked for an injunction to prohibit the school from imposing the suspension.
Apparently, the student was a pretty good athlete, earning himself a full Division 1 athletic scholarship. He argued that the disciplinary action jeopardized his scholarship and that he would not be able to afford college without it.
To support his discrimination claims, the student presented statements from two student witnesses who revealed that when they each reported a white male student for sexual assault and sexual harassment, the school took no action against the perpetrators and discouraged them from pursuing their complaints.
As a result, while the court declined to enter an injunction to halt the suspension, the court allowed the case to proceed. In doing so, the court offered this admonition:
The Court will deny Doe’s motion for a preliminary injunction, but the message should be clear: victims of sexual misconduct, those who stand accused, and society as a whole all benefit from ensuring that allegations of sexual misconduct are handled in a non-negligent and non-discriminatory manner. Two of Doe’s claims, that similar allegations against non-African-American students were handled differently and that he was improperly discouraged from responding to the claims of sexual misconduct, merit a more thorough review after the facts are developed in discovery.
The case is Doe v. The Blake School, No. CV 18-919, 2018 WL 2108204 (D. Minn. May 7, 2018).
DAWG BONE: MAKE SURE YOU INVESTIGATE CLAIMS AND APPLY YOUR DISCIPLINE RULES FAIRLY AND EQUALLY.
Tomorrow: A student “bomb incident,” a parent trespass warning and the Constitution.