Former student claims that professor sexually assaulted him and that KU failed to investigate
A former University of Kansas student claims that an intoxicated professor sexually assaulted him and that KU failed to properly investigate or act when he reported the abuse.
On Friday, the former student — identified only as John Doe 58 — filed a federal lawsuit in Kansas City, Kan., against KU, claiming the school violated federal Title IX laws, which prohibit gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence in education.
The lawsuit also alleges that in a separate incident, Doe was harassed by another student, and that incident also was not properly investigated or acted upon.
In the aftermath of the reported abuse and harassment, Doe claims the school retaliated against him and intimidated him. Ultimately, he claims, he was forced to drop out.
The lawsuit claims the defendants — KU and the unnamed professor — are at fault for Title IX discrimination, Title IX retaliation, assault and/or battery, outrageous conduct, negligent supervision, negligent infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount of compensatory, statutory and punitive damages.
Doe’s attorney, Rebecca Randles, could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. KU Spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
The lawsuit stems from the spring of 2015 when one of Doe’s professors, in a theater class, allegedly “showed a high level of interest” in Doe and invited him to his home for dinner, according to the lawsuit. The professor told Doe additional students were also invited, but when Doe arrived at his professor’s home, he was the only student there, the lawsuit says, and the professor was intoxicated.
The professor then “sexually assaulted” Doe “by forcefully kissing him and grabbing his genitals,” the lawsuit claims.
Doe reported the alleged assault to KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, which is responsible for investigating such claims, the lawsuit says.
Though an investigation was launched it was “inadequate and never completed,” the lawsuit contends. Throughout the process, Doe claims the investigators “engaged in victim blaming and victim shaming instead of” looking into the allegations.
Around this time, KU “knew or should have known” that the professor “sexually assaulted at least one other student prior to his assault on” Doe, the lawsuit claims. It continues: “KU had previously conducted an investigation into” the professor’s “drunkenness and established that it adversely affected his job performance.”
However, the professor was never disciplined or terminated for any reported prior assaults, or the one brought to light by Doe, the lawsuit claims.
Afterward, Doe had difficulty returning to the professor’s class and became ineligible for financial aid and “unable to afford his education,” the lawsuit says.
The next fall, Doe was able to return to KU and enrolled in a movement class, where a fellow student sexually harassed him, the lawsuit says.
The student harassed Doe “by making inappropriate sexual comments” in class and staring at his body during classroom activities, the lawsuit says. One one occasion, the lawsuit alleges, the student inappropriately touched Doe.
The professor of the class witnessed the inappropriate behavior but “took no protective or preventative action,” the lawsuit says.
Doe then asked the professor to report the student’s actions to the IOA, but she called counseling services instead, the lawsuit says.
Ultimately, Doe’s “complaints of harassment were not addressed,” the lawsuit says.
Repeatedly, however, Doe was approached by KU officials and asked to “sign documents saying that IOA had conducted a thorough investigation” into all his claims of assault and harassment, the lawsuit says. “These documents also contained language releasing KU from any liability,” but Doe did not sign them.
Doe was ultimately forced to leave KU in the spring of 2016, the lawsuit claims, and he suffered from suicidal thoughts, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.
Doe is demanding a trial by jury, though a date has not yet been scheduled and the defendants have not yet filed an answer to his claims.