Weckhorst v. Kansas State University
Public Justice joined an amici brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in support of the plaintiffs in a Title IX suit against a university for acting with deliberate indifference to student-on-student sexual violence that occurred at fraternities. The university lost its motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ Title IX claims and filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing that a school cannot be liable if a student is not sexually assaulted or otherwise harassed again as a result of the institution’s deliberate indifference to the reported sexual assault. Essentially, the university is arguing for a “one free rape rule.” Adding insult to injury, the university also argues that, even if Title IX allows a student to state a claim for “only” one rape, she would lack Article III standing because attending a school with one’s rapist is not a “real harm.”
The amici brief argues that Title IX requires schools to remedy the hostile environment created by a sexual assault so that victims don’t have their education derailed by the violence they experienced. The brief also includes stories and data about the educational and psychological impact of rape on student survivors and discusses the terrible policy ramifications of reversing the district court’s decision.
On March 18, 2019, the Tenth Circuit held that the two rape survivors could proceed with their Title IX claims, even though they didn’t suffer further harassment after they were raped. The court reasoned that it was sufficient to allege that the university’s deliberate indifference made the plaintiffs “vulnerable to” sexual harassment by allowing their assailants to continue attending the university “unchecked and without the school investigating.”
The plaintiffs may now continue to proceed with their cases in federal district court.