West Virginia University Settles Title IX Lawsuit with Former Student
WVU’s student conduct board found an alleged assailant “not responsible” for a reported rape but a grand jury indicted him on a sexual assault charge.
West Virginia University has settled a Title IX lawsuit with a former student who says the school mishandled her reported rape at an off-campus residence.
The university has agreed to pay former student Bianca Saporito $100,000 to drop the lawsuit. Saporito has agreed not to talk about or post anything on social media regarding the settlement, reports Charleston Gazette-Mail.
In the early hours of April 13, 2014, Saporito alleges a male student raped her in the bathroom of an off-campus apartment. She went to the Morgantown Police Department that afternoon to report the rape. The interview was recorded by police.
Morgantown police then contacted WVU employee Peggy Runyon who is an employee in the school’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Office which handles all complaints of sexual violence.
Runyon interviewed Saporito a total of three times between April 22 and May 27.
In July, the male student, Nathan Nkwaya, was found “not responsible” by a student conduct board. Saporito later withdrew from the university because Nkwaya was allowed to stay on campus, causing emotional distress, according to the complaint she filed in federal court.
Two months prior to the conduct board’s decision, a grand jury indicted Nkwaya on a charge of second-degree sexual assault.
Nkwaya pleaded guilty to two lesser charges of battery and unlawful restraint. He was sentenced in July 2016 to one year in jail at Northern Central Regional Jail.
Saporito’s lawsuit alleged Runyon attempted to deter Saporito from going through with an expulsion hearing for her assailant. Runyon also allegedly told board members during the hearing that Saporito “consented to sexual events” and the assailant “stopped his sexual advances” when he was asked to stop.
The lawsuit also says Runyon was shown the videotaped interview by a Morgantown detective but did not show it during the expulsion hearing.
Saporito’s lawsuit calls Runyon’s report and testimony to the student conduct board “not appropriate, not impartial, not equitable, not adequate and not reliable.”
Saporito appealed the board’s decision but says she did not have enough time to prepare for the scheduled meeting. She got a notice at 11:04 a.m. on July 7 stating that an appeals meeting was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on July 8. Her appeal was denied.
Prior to working in the school’s Title IX office, Runyon worked for the school’s police department from 1999 to 2014, reports The Herald Courier. Three days prior to Nkwaya’s plea agreement, Runyon returned to the police department as a crime prevention coordinator, says WVU spokeswoman April Kaull.
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