KU: Request for records related to Title IX lawsuits’ resolution in ‘legal review’
The University of Kansas is not immediately producing records shedding light on any agreements that led to the dismissal of two highly publicized Title IX lawsuits against KU.
In response to a Kansas Open Records Act request filed Monday by the Journal-World, the university said Thursday that the request “has been forwarded for legal review.”
“That review must be completed before we are able to respond with an estimate of the fees incurred to produce any records that may be responsive,” KU custodian of public records Jen Arbuthnot wrote in an email to the newspaper.
Arbuthnot said KU would respond by Dec. 14 with another update on the status of the request, “at which time we may include determinations of availability and an estimate of fees incurred to produce available records, if any.”
The Journal-World is requesting records related to the dismissal of the lawsuits, including any out-of-court settlement agreements.
In spring 2016, former KU rowers Daisy Tackett and Sarah McClure sued KU, accusing the university of failing to properly handle their reports of being sexually assaulted on campus by the same man, who was a KU football player at the time. The women also accused rowing coaches of retaliating against them after they reported being assaulted.
On Nov. 21, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Marten dismissed both cases at the request of all parties.
According to court documents, both sides agreed to pay their own legal costs and stipulated that the cases be dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning the same claims can’t be refiled.
None of the parties is answering more questions, either — including whether KU paid the women to settle the lawsuits out of court.
KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson and the women’s attorney, Kansas City, Mo.-based Dan Curry, gave identical statements this week: “The matter has been resolved.”
The women’s parents also said neither they nor their daughters could comment.
Reached this week via email, Amanda Tackett referred questions to their attorney, and Jim McClure said, “Our matter with KU has been resolved.”
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.
Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in education, including sexual violence.
Judge Marten dismissed major portions of both cases earlier this year — specifically the women’s allegations that KU was institutionally liable for their sexual assaults before they occurred — but jury trials for the remaining claims had been scheduled for next year.
Tackett was a freshman in fall 2014 when, after a Halloween 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.
Tackett withdrew from KU in early 2016, and McClure finished the spring 2016 semester but did not return in the fall.
McClure’s civil lawsuit was filed under the name Jane Doe 7, but both she and Tackett have publicly shared their names.
When the lawsuits were filed and throughout the process, KU’s Barcomb-Peterson called the women’s legal claims “baseless.”
In court filings, KU repeatedly asked for the cases’ dismissal and said that although the women’s assaults were “tragic,” the university was not liable under the law.