Archive for Monday, October 24, 2016

Victim of alleged Haskell University dorm rapes sues school under Title IX

Woman says she was treated unfairly by Haskell as lengthy criminal cases against two men slogged on

The Haskell Indian Nations University campus entrance is pictured in this file photo from September 2010.

The Haskell Indian Nations University campus entrance is pictured in this file photo from September 2010.

October 24, 2016

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The Haskell Indian Nations University student fighting to criminally convict two male students she said raped her in a dorm is now suing the university and federal officials under Title IX.

As she struggled to stay in school through lengthy criminal court cases against the men — which remain unresolved two years later — Haskell administrators treated her unfairly on campus and also violated her privacy by unlawfully giving her counseling records to one man’s defense attorney without a court subpoena, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also accuses Haskell of allowing the environment that led to the woman being raped, specifically that Haskell employees knew the school’s no-alcohol policies and curfew hours were not being enforced. The assailants, both football players, were drinking heavily that night in November 2014 and had the woman in their dorm room after curfew, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court, according to the woman’s attorney, Dan Curry of the Brown & Curry law firm in Kansas City, Mo., who provided a copy of the petition.

Curry also is representing Angelina Adams, the Haskell counselor who worked with the student after her rape report, in a related federal lawsuit filed earlier this month.

The woman, named in the new lawsuit as Jane Doe H, now lives in Oklahoma after being expelled by Haskell this spring following a physical altercation with another student, according to the suit.

The men she said raped her, who are not named in the Title IX lawsuit, are Jared Wheeler and Galen Satoe. Both were criminally charged with rape and expelled from Haskell following the woman’s report.

Wheeler and Satoe’s criminal trials both ended with hung juries this summer, and the two men are scheduled for their second trials in December 2016 and February 2017, respectively.

Defendants named in the Title IX suit are Haskell Indian Nations University, the United States of America, U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and three individual Haskell administrators: Title IX coordinator at the time Elyse Towey; then-vice president of university services Tonia Salvini; and President Venida Chenault. A federally funded and operated institution, Haskell is overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education, under the Department of Interior.

Bureau of Indian Education spokeswoman Nedra Darling said Monday night that the bureau does not comment on matters in litigation.

The woman is seeking a jury trial and an unspecified amount of money to compensate her for attorney expenses and other damages. 

“Plaintiff strove to continue as a HINU student while cooperating with the Douglas County, Kansas, prosecutor’s office as the complaining witness in the two criminal cases against her assailants,” the lawsuit says.

The defendants in the suit knew she had developed a medical/psychological condition as a result of the rapes that interfered with her ability to complete her courses, the suit said. Not only did the assaults cause her “extreme emotional distress,” the ongoing demands of the criminal proceedings also took a toll — “each postponed several times by many months, with each delay delivering more emotional turmoil to Plaintiff and prolonging the stress she faced and rendering her suicidal at times.”

On April 1, 2016, Haskell administrators expelled the woman and banned her from campus without conducting an investigation or giving her due process, the lawsuit said. The discipline was for a physical altercation the woman had with a male student in one of Haskell’s dorms, which resulted in bruises on the woman’s arm, according to the lawsuit.

The woman’s lawsuit accuses Haskell administrators of intentionally pressuring that male student to file a “baseless” Title IX complaint against her so they could “get rid of her.”

This June, the first of the two men’s criminal trials began.

“During that trial, HINU administrators provided the criminal attorney for Plaintiff’s assailant with copies of her education and medical records without being compelled by a subpoena and without notice to her,” the lawsuit says. “The defense relied on information gleaned from these records, and the trial resulted in a hung jury.”

The second man’s trial began in July, and Haskell again prepared to release the woman’s private records without notice to her, until her counselor, Adams, intervened, according to the lawsuit.

Adams’ lawsuit accuses Haskell of retaliating against her as she helped the female student pursue her rights under Title IX. Among other things, Adams accused Haskell administrators of unfairly demoting her and cutting her off from counseling the woman and other students.

In addition to Jane Doe H and Adams, Curry is also representing two women who are suing the University of Kansas under Title IX. The women, both former KU rowing team members, said they were sexually assaulted by the same KU football player in campus housing and that KU failed to properly respond to their reports.

Title IX is the federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in education and the law under which universities are required to investigate and take measures to prevent sexual harassment, including sexual violence, on their campuses.

Contact KU and higher ed reporter Sara Shepherd
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