LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CN) – A Bellarmine University student claims he was kicked out of a study abroad program, booted from a Paris hotel on New Year’s Day, and left to fend for himself after being falsely accused of sexual assault by female students who had a change of heart about him.
A complaint filed Friday in Louisville federal court alleges the Kentucky Institute for International Studies, or KIIS, expelled John Doe on Jan. 1 and “abandoned [him] on the streets of a foreign country.”
The student – who attends Bellarmine University in Louisville – was part of a faculty-led winter break trip, and traveled in Germany and France at the time of the incident.
KIIS is a “consortium of colleges and universities in Kentucky and surrounding states,” and is not a part of Bellarmine, according to the complaint. KIIS is also not a party to the complaint.
Doe says he and several other students went out to dinner in Germany on New Year’s Eve, and then went to a bar to watch fireworks.
During the fireworks displays, he says he “had his arms around SG and SD. There was a large crowd and at one point his hand slipped and briefly touched SD on the butt and later on her breast. He apologized but SD was upset and left with RB.”
“After the [fireworks], John Doe started making out with SG. John Doe does not clearly remember the rest of the events on that evening,” the lawsuit states.
The group traveled to Paris the following day, and the women involved in the incident talked to several faculty advisors but allegedly said “they did not feel threatened by John Doe and they had no objection to him completing the trip.”
However, later that night, the complaint says the women had a “change in heart … and requested that [John Doe] be removed from the program.”
At that point, the accused student says he was asked to immediately leave the hotel and was told “he would have to find his own way back to the United States.”
“Essentially, he was abandoned on the streets of a foreign country,” the complaint states. “The faculty advisers essentially told him, ‘your flight is in two days. Good luck.’”
The student’s attorney, Joshua Engel, said in an interview Tuesday that “without any hearing or semblance of process, he was kicked off the trip and thrown out his hotel. The student’s parents then had to arrange for a hotel room and transportation back to the United States.”
Bellarmine University, which is named as the only defendant in the lawsuit, received formal complaints about Doe’s behavior on Jan. 3 and began an investigation on Jan. 9, according to the suit.
The investigative report obtained by Doe provided a summary of SG’s interview with investigators, which included an admission that “she had been drinking on the night of the incident.”
She also reportedly said “that while they were making out, John Doe slapped her twice on the butt and tried to reach under her skirt … [but] that she believed John Doe’s actions on New Year’s Eve were consensual.”
Despite her initial remarks, the complaint says SG eventually “changed her opinion … after discussing the matter with other students.”
The complaint details the investigators’ interviews with other students who were on the trip, most of which included statements about Doe’s flirtatious activity with a number of women on the trip.
Doe was interviewed on Jan. 18 and “described a trip where the students were very close, drinking a lot, and engaging in a lot of flirting, kissing, and other mild sexual behavior.”
“John Doe recalled a few of the events of December 31…but indicated that he believed he might have been drugged that evening. He suspected someone had slipped ecstasy or another drug into his drink,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit alleges that investigators failed to clear up discrepancies between witness accounts of the New Year’s Eve incident and used hearsay evidence to determine that Doe had violated the university’s student code of conduct.
He was suspended for one semester on March 31, but says he appealed the suspension because the school denied him the opportunity to have an advisor present at the hearing.
Although he was granted a new hearing – this time with an attorney – the disciplinary panel once again found him guilty of violations of the student code of conduct and suspended him.
Engel said in the interview Tuesday that “even if you believe the worst of the allegations, the punishment John Doe received is greatly disproportionate to the offense.”
The suit seeks damages for Title IX violations, negligence, and breach of contract, as well as an injunction prohibiting further disciplinary proceedings.
According to the complaint, Doe is only nine credit hours shy of obtaining his degree from Bellarmine.
Engel is based out of Mason, Ohio, with the firm Engel and Martin.
Bellarmine spokesman Jason Cissell said the university does not comment on pending litigation.