SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CN) – A Notre Dame student claims in court that he was wrongly dismissed from school just three weeks before graduation based on false accusations of harassment and “dating violence.”
John Doe sued the university in South Bend, Ind., federal court on Thursday, alleging a Title IX violation and claiming the school deprived him of an education through the “discriminatory, gender-biased implementation” of its sexual harassment policy.
Doe says his troubles began after his ex-girlfriend instigated a “vindictive” separate Title IX proceeding against him, in which she called his repeated attempts to reach out to her for support via texting harassment.
According to the complaint, Doe was experiencing a “difficult moment in his life,” including episodic depression and suicidal ideation after the suicide of a friend during his attempts to contact his ex-girlfriend.
He claims that Notre Dame’s investigation, hearing and appeal procedures following her complaints were “rife with procedural flaws, lack of due process and inherent gender bias, designed to insure that male students accused of any type of sexual misconduct or harassment – concepts that do not apply to John’s conduct – are found responsible.”
“The University determined that John’s text messages concerning his suicidal thoughts and repeated attempts to contact Jane for help violated its Standards of Conduct, and constituted ‘stalking,’ ‘dating violence,’ harassment, and ‘willful damage to the psychological well-being of another.’ For these transgressions the University took the extreme measure of dismissing John with no guarantee of readmission, which decision became final with just three weeks of his final semester as a graduating senior left to complete,” the lawsuit states.
The university was so eager to prosecute Doe that it ignored video evidence of his ex-girlfriend admitting to using the Title IX procedures to “pursue a personal vendetta,” engage in witness tampering and destroy Doe’s reputation, according to the lawsuit.
In addition, the school allegedly refused to consider sworn statements from people who said they would have testified in Doe’s defense but were dissuaded from doing so after being coerced by the ex-girlfriend and her friends.
Doe says Notre Dame also refused to consider a letter submitted on his behalf by his therapist, who said he had made substantial progress in his therapy and had ceased all contact with his ex.
During the investigation, Doe claims his ex-girlfriend only submitted “selectively produced excerpts of text message chains, which were carefully curated to depict John in the most negative light possible, omitting all instances of provocation or similarly threatening statements made by Jane [Roe.]”
According to the complaint, Jane even went as far as filing for and then moving to dismiss a protection order against Doe in circuit court after he issued discovery requests seeking to recover all text messages between them.
“This action revealed not only the lengths Jane would go to avoid disclosure of her texts, but also that her alleged fear and concern for her own safety was mere pretense,” the complaint states. “The Circuit Court allowed Jane to withdraw her Petition, but ordered her to permanently maintain her text messages. Once John is able to obtain those communications, which the University should have required Jane to produce in full, the complete history of Jane’s communications will be laid bare and will demonstrate the extent of Jane’s active participation in the very conduct she has alleged in her various complaints against John.” (Emphasis in original.)
While the university vigorously pursued Jane’s claims, they all but ignored Doe’s when he contacted school officials claiming she had been harassing him in turn, according to the complaint.
Doe claims Notre Dame’s motivation for its skewed investigation process was not difficult to discern, as he says the university was trying to avoid further public scrutiny over sexual assault cases on campus.
It levied “overly harsh punishment” on Doe after the fallout of a 2010 campus incident that gained national attention when a 19-year-old freshman killed herself after reporting that she had been assaulted by a university football player, according to the lawsuit.
Hoping to dodge further criticism, Doe claims Notre Dame created an “atmosphere of institutional hostility toward accused male students” and ensured “that female accuser’s complaints would be acted upon and found credible, even in dubious cases such as the allegations leveled at John.”
Notre Dame did not respond Friday to a phone call requesting comment.
Doe requests declaratory and injunctive relief reversing the findings and sanctions against him, expungement of his sanctions and dismissal from university records, and reinstatement as a student. He is represented by Peter Agostino of Anderson, Agostino and Keller in South Bend.