Penn State in the crosshairs of due process case
- A Pennsylvania State University student is suing his school, alleging due process violations in a sexual misconduct case.
- The school suspended him for two semesters for a sexual assault the student says never occurred.
A Pennsylvania State University student claims that his school denied him "the most basic due process protections" in a December lawsuit.
The plaintiff, a third-year electrical engineering student at Penn State referred to as John Doe in the lawsuit, seeks to overturn a two-semester suspension handed down by the university in a sexual misconduct case, the Pennsylvania Record reported.
Doe alleges that he and Jane Roe, the pseudonym assigned to his student accuser in the lawsuit, maintained a "friends with benefits" relationship from August to November 2016. Doe and Roe both agree to having had consensual sexual intercourse on Nov. 12, 2016, but Roe claims that Doe anally penetrated her subsequently. Doe denies this occurred.
The plaintiff claims that Roe continued to text him after the incident, texting him on Nov. 14 and again on Nov. 16, asking what he was doing. She allegedly told him "Mm ok goodnight [Doe]" after Doe replied, saying he was going to sleep. Nearly three weeks later, Roe allegedly texted Doe, asking to "talk." Doe claims he said "No, please leave me alone, I found someone that’s why I don’t respond to your texts. [S]top talking to me."
Roe again asked Doe if the two could talk in July 2017. When the plaintiff responded in the affirmative but noted that he had a girlfriend, Doe said, “I hope that you don’t hurt her like you hurt me.” Roe accused Doe of nonconsensual anal penetration on Sept. 12, 2017.
Doe claims that Penn State violated his right to due process under the 14th Amendment, citing specifically the school's alleged denial of his right to personally call witnesses, cross-examine Roe, and be afforded a presumption of innocence, among other items. The student also argues that Penn State violated 42 U.S.C. §1983, which entitles those deprived of their rights to take action through litigation.
The plaintiff seeks for Penn State to dismiss its verdict finding him guilty of its code of conduct, reverse its suspension of him, and clear him of records pertaining to his discipline, as well as fees associated with the case.
Penn State spokeswoman Rachel Pell told Campus Reform that the school "does not comment on pending litigation."
Doe's lawsuit comes amid the public comment period for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' proposed Title IX revisions. DeVos' changes, if enacted, would require schools to treat students accused of sexual misconduct with the presumption of innocence and mandate a "preponderance of the evidence" standard in such cases, among other items.
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