Colleges See Rise in Lawsuits from Students Accused of Sexual Assault

A five-year study conducted by United Educators found that the average lawsuit filed against colleges by alleged sexual assault perpetrators costs $187,000.

Colleges See Rise in Lawsuits from Students Accused of Sexual Assault

United Educators is the largest insurer of the education market, providing liability coverage and risk management services.

A study conducted from 2011 to 2015 has found a significant increase in the number of claims brought against colleges and universities by alleged perpetrators of sexual assault.

The study, titled “Student Sexual Assault Claims: When Alleged Perpetrators Become Plaintiffs”, was conducted by United Educators, the nation’s largest insurer of the education market which provides liability coverage and risk management services to those representing schools, colleges, and universities, according to its website.

UE has been handling sexual assault claims for 30 years. However, most of those claims were from the alleged victims and not the alleged attackers.

Of all claims looked at in the five-year study, all alleged perpetrators were male. Ninety-six percent of the assaults were male-on-female and four percent were male-on-male. Only one claim actually made it to trial, and the school won that case but incurred $500,000 in legal expenses.

Alex Miller, associate vice president for research and program development at United Educators, claims that usually when a college investigates a sexual assault “institutions are actually getting it right, so you’re not having losses,” but some students are unhappy with the process and try to obtain financial or other remedies from the institutions, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.

By the Numbers

On average, a college or university lost $187,000 per claim by an alleged sexual assault perpetrator. Defense costs account for 71 percent of those losses. On the contrary, defense costs make up approximately 37 percent of losses in alleged victims’ claims.

The highest loss incurred by a school was $1,000,000. The study also found that 13 percent incurred losses of $500,000 or more and 40 percent incurred losses of $200,000 or more.

What Are Alleged Perpetrators Claiming?

The study found that most of the claims by alleged perpetrators were filed in accordance with the sanctions imposed on them by their school. Almost half of the students who filed claims were expelled and a third of those students were seniors who were expelled right before graduation.

In approximately 40 percent of these claims, perpetrators sought exoneration from conferral of a degree, readmission to school, or expungement of disciplinary records.

The most frequently seen claim in these lawsuits was a breach of contract. Approximately 67 percent of claimed the school did not follow its own disciplinary procedures regarding the handling of sexual misconduct.

Title IX violations were present in 60 percent of the lawsuits, claiming the schools treated them differently because they were male.

Negligence was present in 40 percent of lawsuits, claiming the school either conducted a negligent investigation or did not properly train officials involved in the disciplinary process of sexual assault claims.

United Educators also broke down these common claims to give insight into where some schools may have gone wrong in their handling of sexual assault perpetrators. The top four common factors which led to these lawsuits include:

  1. Unclear policy language
  2. Poor investigation practices
  3. Problematic adjudication process
  4. Misunderstanding of consent

Within the study, each factor is accompanied with an example and a recommendation for what to do if a school finds itself in the same situation.

To delve further into the findings of the study and to learn about recommendations from UE on how to prevent or handle these claims, download the full whitepaper from UE.

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About the Author


Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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One response to “Colleges See Rise in Lawsuits from Students Accused of Sexual Assault”

  1. Schools continue to ignore steps towards transparency about their campus crime statistics. As a result they tend to not make proactive changes that would prevent them from being sued over problems that they haven’t acknowledged. Creating an environment where students feel comfortable coming forward after a crime will increase the number of reports. But if done correctly it can ensure victims have a positive experience in how their case is handled. Ultimately this should reduce schools legal risk.

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