Justice Department Says University of Nebraska-Lincoln Misinterpreted Title IX
The DOJ says a single rape or sexual assault can meet the Title IX standard.
After months of “he said she said,” in a rare filing on June 11 by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) may be held accountable for a Title IX lawsuit filed by nine women against the school.
The former and current students allege that after being sexually harassed, UNL’s investigation and responses were insufficient, reports the Lincoln Journal Star. UNL counters that the women failed to state plausible Title IX claims, in part because UNL didn’t realize that the harassers posed a substantial risk of sexual harassment and because a single instance of sexual misconduct does not qualify as “severe and pervasive” harassment.
At least some of the incidents at UNL involved student athletes, both as victims and culprits.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Brigid Benincasa of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, case law says that a single rape or sexual assault, can, in fact, meet the Title IX standard. There is no need for repeat sexual offenses to qualify as Title IX misconduct, as UNL counters.
Additionally, the claims being made by six of the nine plaintiffs involve retaliation or harassment from their peers after the plaintiffs were raped, sexually assaulted or sexually harassed.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Karen Truszkowski said this would is an important development, which could be instructive nationally.
“The United States has a significant interest in the proper interpretation of Title IX and ensuring that federally funded schools meet their Title IX obligations to provide a safe, nondiscriminatory learning environment by responding appropriately to reports of sexual discrimination,” said Benincasa.
UNL stated that, “We remain confident of our legal position and are pleased that the vast majority of the claims were dropped by the plaintiffs. Beyond that, we cannot comment on pending litigation.”
The allegations initially came to light in April 2020 when a Title IX lawsuit was filed against the NCAA in Michigan on behalf of students at UNL and Michigan State University.