Ex-rowers’ Title IX lawsuits against KU dismissed; parties mum on agreement
A federal court has dismissed two Title IX lawsuits against the University of Kansas, at the request of the plaintiffs and KU.
The day before KU’s Thanksgiving break, on Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Marten dismissed both cases, according to an order filed with the court.
Attorneys representing KU and the women suing the university had filed joint requests several days earlier asking the court to dismiss both cases. According to those documents, both sides agreed to pay their own costs and legal fees and stipulated that the cases be dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning the same claims cannot be raised again.
The two similar lawsuits, filed in spring 2016, accused KU of failing to properly handle the women’s reports of being sexually assaulted on campus by a KU football player. Both members of the KU rowing team at the time of the assaults, Daisy Tackett and Sarah McClure also accused rowing coaches of retaliating against them after they reported the assaults.
On Monday, the women’s attorney, Kansas City, Mo.-based Dan Curry, declined to answer whether the cases were settled out of court.
“The matter has been resolved,” Curry said.
Curry declined to answer further questions or comment on his clients’ reaction to the resolution.
KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson also did not answer questions about the resolution, including whether the university reached out-of-court-agreements with the women.
“The matter has been resolved,” Barcomb-Peterson also said, in an email.
The Journal-World on Monday also submitted a formal Kansas Open Records Act request to KU seeking records related to the lawsuits’ resolution.
Settlement agreements memorializing amounts paid by public agencies to end legal disputes are public records in Kansas, “even if the parties to the dispute attempt to keep the agreement confidential,” according to Max Kautsch, a Lawrence-based attorney who specializes in open-government issues.
Kautsch represents the Kansas Press Association and has represented the Journal-World in past unrelated legal matters.
“We can’t live in a world where a public agency can engage in a settlement with taxpayer dollars, and then keep the public in the dark about how that money was spent,” Kautsch said.
Under the Kansas Open Records Act, the university has three days to respond to the Journal-World’s request.
Jury trials had been scheduled for July 2018 in Tackett’s case and for October 2018 in McClure’s case.
Tackett was a freshman in fall 2014 when, after a party, the football player raped her in his apartment at KU’s Jayhawker Towers, according to allegations in her suit. Tackett reported the alleged rape to KU a year later, in October 2015, after hearing another rower had allegedly been assaulted by the same man. Tackett did not file a police report.
A week into McClure’s freshman year at KU, in August 2015, the same football player fondled McClure’s breasts in her apartment at Jayhawker Towers, according to allegations in her lawsuit. In October 2015, McClure reported the assault to KU and also filed a police report, though the report did not result in criminal charges.
KU’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access investigated, found the man responsible for assaulting both women and banned him from campus in midspring 2016. The office applied a preponderance of the evidence standard, meaning it had determined that it was more likely than not that the events had happened as the women described. In a criminal case, by contrast, a court must use the stricter standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Tackett withdrew from KU in early 2016, and McClure finished the spring 2016 semester but did not return in the fall.
Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education, including sexual violence.
Earlier this year, Judge Marten dismissed a significant portion of the lawsuits, specifically the women’s allegations that KU was institutionally liable for their sexual assaults before they occurred.
The women had argued KU should have known there was a heightened risk of sexual assault at Jayhawker Towers apartments, where football players live with less supervision than in residence halls. They also alleged that KU required female rowers to go to football games and cheer for the players and encouraged the women to attend off-campus parties with football recruits.
Marten dismissed that claim, saying such “alleged policies” played no role in the women’s reported assaults, and there’s no allegations they were assaulted at sanctioned events or that KU somehow encouraged misconduct by the football player, named in court documents as “John Doe G.”
McClure’s civil lawsuit was filed under the name Jane Doe 7, but both she and Tackett have publicly shared their names.