Grinnell College student sex misconduct case could go to trial

DES MOINES, Iowa- A former Grinnell College student, expelled because of a sexual misconduct complaint, is suing, and it appears his lawsuit may go to trial. The lawsuit claims Grinnell discriminated against the student based on his gender, in violation of "Title Nine."

The female student said she was a willing participant in the sexual conduct. After a review, Grinnell expelled the male student.

Federal Judge Rebecca Ebinger has ruled the decision to expel the student was based on a biased recommendation, from former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Marsha Ternus, who reviewed the case as an adjudicator for Grinnell College.

Lawyers for the plaintiff spoke with reporters in a conference call in Des Moines today (Thursday).

Attorney Kara Gorycki says Ternus' recommendation that Grinnell expel the male student, presumes women are passive, and Gorycki says that was not the situation in this particular case, as the female student admitted she was a willing participant.

Gorycki says the expulsion because of sexual assault on a college transcript is significant, as the person involved is marked as a sexual predator for the rest of their lives, and often prohibits them from enrollment in schools and/or training programs, and becomes a red flag every time there is a background check, regardless of whether there was a criminal prosecution.

The lawsuit also claims Grinnell College violated its own policies in handling the case.

CONCLUSION from Federal Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger

"...The Court concludes there are disputes of material fact regarding the accuracy of the outcome of Doe’s disciplinary proceeding and whether that inaccuracy was caused by gender bias. The Court denies Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Doe’s Title IX claim, Count II. The facts as to whether Grinnell substantially performed its contractual duties or breached its contract so that Doe suffered damage are genuinely disputed. Because the material facts regarding Doe’s breach of contract claim are in dispute, the Court denies Defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to Case 4:17-cv-00079-RGE-SBJ Document 151 Filed 07/09/19 Page 41 of 42 42 Doe’s breach of contract claim, Count III. The material facts of Doe’s estoppel claim and his negligent misrepresentation claim are not disputed. The undisputed facts demonstrate Grinnell did not make clear and definite promises to Doe that he relied upon to his detriment. The undisputed facts also show Defendants did not provide Doe with false information. Thus, the Court grants Defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Doe’s estoppel and negligent misrepresentation claims, Counts IV and V."

Grinnell College has issued a statement related to the case:

Debra Lukehart, Vice President of Communications for Grinnell College says all the decision means is that two claims may proceed to trial. Three others were dismissed.  

Lukehart goes on to say "There is no finding that the college violated Title IX. And we look forward to sharing our robust processes that uphold the rights of all of our students at trial."

Lukehart says since there is a pending trial, the college cannot comment further.

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