Document reveals federal government paid $13K to settle Haskell student’s lawsuit

A sign at the entrance to Haskell Indian Nations University is shown Friday, Aug. 5, 2016.

The United States paid a former Haskell Indian Nations University student $13,000 to drop what remained of her lawsuit against the school and the federal government, according to a settlement agreement obtained by the Journal-World.

The lawsuit stemmed from the woman’s dealings with Haskell after reporting to school officials and to police that two male students raped her in a Haskell dorm in 2014.

When a federal judge dismissed the woman’s suit in late November, the newspaper asked for the settlement agreement through a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Department of Justice, and received the document Monday.

The agreement stipulated that, after receiving the money, the woman must dismiss her suit with prejudice. She is not allowed to sue any of the parties again regarding any events happening prior to the settlement, under the agreement.

The United States did not admit to any wrongdoing, stating in the agreement that it was not an admission of the truth of any of the woman’s claims.

The woman’s attorney, Kansas City, Mo.-based Dan Curry, declined to answer how much of the sum went to attorney fees, and the document does not specify.

Curry said his client was “content” with the outcome. He said she planned to re-enroll at Haskell this spring.

“She was interested in trying to get her education back online, and I know that this resolution was what she wanted to get that accomplished,” Curry said. “She was very focused on the future, and she’s been through a lot.”

The civil lawsuit — which began as a Title IX suit, though the bulk of it was dismissed this summer — had been pending more than a year. It was initially filed under the pseudonym Jane Doe H.

In October 2016, the woman sued Haskell, the United States, the U.S. Department of Interior, the secretary of the Interior and three Haskell administrators, including President Venida Chenault. The lawsuit alleged that Haskell — in opposition to Title IX — allowed an unsafe environment by failing to enforce alcohol and curfew policies, treated her unfairly and retaliated against her after she reported the rapes to school and law enforcement authorities.

Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education, including sexual violence. However, Judge Thomas Marten of the U.S. District Court of Kansas ruled in July that Title IX doesn’t apply to Haskell — a federal school run by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education — the same way it does to other universities, and he dismissed the Jane Doe H lawsuit.

At that time, the judge did allow the woman to add a Privacy Act claim against the federal government — which was the only piece of the suit remaining when it was dismissed. She said in the amended suit that Haskell employees unlawfully released her private records to people outside the school during criminal court proceedings.

After the woman reported that the two men raped her in their dorm room on Nov. 15, 2014, both men were expelled from Haskell, and lengthy criminal proceedings began.

The men were charged in Douglas County District Court with rape and aggravated criminal sodomy.

After two trials for defendant Galen Satoe ended in hung juries, the district attorney’s office said in May that prosecutors would not pursue a third trial.

A trial for Jared Wheeler also ended with a hung jury, in June 2016. In November 2016, Wheeler pleaded no contest to a single count of aggravated battery and was sentenced to two months in jail and two years of probation.

Earlier this month, the Journal-World reported that the University of Kansas also paid to settle lawsuits brought by two former students who said they were sexually assaulted on campus by the same football player but that KU failed to respond appropriately under Title IX.

KU paid a total of  $395,000 to the women, who were also represented by Curry, according to agreements obtained by the newspaper. KU agreed to pay $245,000 to plaintiff Daisy Tackett and $150,000 to Sarah McClure, with the women’s attorney’s fees coming out of those sums.

KU, in the agreements, also denied the women’s allegations that the institution broke the law.