Judge: USI can not suspend student in lawsuit over Title IX investigation

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – A Vanderburgh County judge has halted the University of Southern Indiana from suspending a student over a sexual assault allegation. Vanderburgh Circuit Court Judge David Kiely’s temporary restraining order would prevent USI from suspending or imposing other sanctions or restrictions on the student until a Sept. 30 hearing. 

The student filed a lawsuit in the county’s circuit court on Friday accusing the university of violating its own Title IX policies and procedures. The lawsuit also accuses USI of violating the constitutional rights of the student. 

The accused student is referred to as John Doe and was only identified as a 19-year-old black male sophomore student majoring in business. 

The accuser is listed as Jane Doe, according to court records. The incident surrounding the situation allegedly happened in November 2020. 

Court documents show Jane Doe was living in a USI residence hall with three other white female students. John Doe’s residence hall was located next door. Records show that both students became friends, spent time together, and communicated in person, over phone and social media platforms. 

On November 13, 2020, Jane Doe and her roommates were drinking alcohol at a USI residence hall, according to court documents. Jane Doe drank heavily and around 2 a.m she invited John Doe to their party. The sexual assault allegedly occurred in the early morning hours of November 14, 2020. 

Documents show after the alleged incident in November, both students continued to communicate numerous times during the week. Court records show they even visited at least one party off USI’s campus, and kept in contact over the winter break. 

In early February 2021, Jane Doe got high from smoking marijuana and had a panic attack before telling her roommates that John Doe had sexually assaulted her without consent in the early morning hours of November 14, 2021. 

In April of 2021, Jane Doe contacted the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office and stated that she wanted to file criminal charges against John Doe relating to the alleged sexual assault on November 14, 2020.

The Sheriff’s Office began an investigation and requested that Jane Doe produce her phone for downloading since she stated that she had photos on her phone that were relevant to the allegations. 

Jane Doe told the Sheriff’s Office that she would bring her phone in for downloading and a date and time was set. Jane Doe did not show up on the scheduled date and time to allow the Sheriff’s Office to download her phone. Jane Doe then told the Sheriff’s Office that she no longer wanted to pursue criminal charges against the student for the alleged sexual assault. The Sheriff’s Office closed its investigation. 

According to records, John Doe was notified on September 22 that he was being suspended for a year and a half beginning Sept. 25. 

The accused student was first suspended in August after a hearing before the university panel to hear evidence of the allegation. The student’s appeal was denied Wednesday prompting a notice.  

“We believe the evidence and facts will show USI violated Title IX’s regulations and the university’s own policies. Until the Court stopped USI’s intended suspension of John Doe, he endured flawed, biased, prejudicial and unlawful proceedings by USI,” said Keith Vonderahe, an attorney representing the accused student. “No teenage college student should ever have to do that. We are grateful that the Court has temporarily stayed the university’s intended suspension of John Doe and scheduled a prompt hearing for next Thursday.”

Title IX is part of the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act prohibiting gender-based discrimination and harassment, including sexual misconduct. It was an amendment covering educational programs and activities receiving federal assistance.

You can read the full court documents here:

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