DENVER (CN) – Colorado State University Pueblo agreed to settle a lawsuit with a former student-athlete who claimed the university wrongfully suspended him for having sex with a friend.
In a joint status report filed on July 14, the parties said they have agreed upon “money and a number of non-economic terms,” a little over a year after Grant Neal filed his complaint against the school.
Neal sued CSU Pueblo in April 2016 for violating Title IX, after he lost his wrestling and football scholarships following a misconduct investigation that found him guilty of rape. The unnamed student Neal had been accused of assaulting told the school that she and Neal were in a consensual relationship, and Neal’s complaint says Jane Doe told officials: “Our stories are the same and he’s a good guy. He’s not a rapist, he’s not a criminal, it’s not even worth any of this hoopla.”
Because Neal had been her student trainer, the pair had kept their relationship a secret because trainer relationships with trainees was frowned upon. But another peer in the athletic training program noticed a hickey on Doe’s neck, and Doe told her she had had sex with plaintiff the day before. Neal’s complaint says that “given plaintiff’s status as a high-profile football player, complainant presumed that plaintiff had engaged in non-consensual contact with Jane Doe.”
Neal’s complaint included eight causes of action, including breach of contract, breach of faith, violations of Title IX and due process, and procedural matters. He claimed the school had “railroaded” him during its investigation in an effort to find him guilty, particularly due to bias towards his gender and his role as a prominent football player on the school’s team.
The school’s Title IX coordinator, Roosevelt Wilson, was named as a defendant after Neal claimed Wilson blamed the football team and “the culture associated with it” in a meeting with Neal.
Neal claimed the U.S. Department of Education’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter, which established new regulations for schools investigating sexual violence on campus, made it easier for school officials to penalize him with little to no evidence of wrongdoing.
“The federal defendants issued the Dear Colleague Letter, under the guise of a ‘guidance’ document to avoid the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act and subsequent judicial review, when in actuality, this purported ‘guidance’ sets forth the federal defendants’ final conclusions with respect to Title IX compliance and creates specific legal obligations with clear and draconian consequences for violations,” Neal’s complaint said.
Neal claimed the letter caused schools “to brand more students ‘rapists.’”
In February, U.S. Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer refused to grant the school’s motions to dismiss Neal’s claims, writing in his recommendation that the school’s misconduct investigation was wrought with “bias and inaccuracy.” Shaffer did dismiss the claims against the Department of Education, noting that CSU Pueblo’s methods of investigating and penalizing sexual offenders on campus had not necessarily changed after the “Dear Colleague” letter went into effect.
The joint status report requested one more week to finalize the details of the settlement.