Michigan State wins appeal on its handling of assault cases
A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled in favor of Michigan State University and dismissed a lawsuit by four students who said they suffered because of how the school handled their sexual assault complaints.
The court said the threshold is high: The female students had to show that Michigan State was deliberately indifferent to their initial complaints and that they suffered additional harassment as a result.
The court, in a 3-0 decision, said it wasn’t swayed.
“None of the plaintiffs in this case suffered any actionable sexual harassment after the school’s response,” Judge Alice Batchelder wrote.
In one case, a student said MSU in 2012 had prohibited a male student from having any contact with her. She said she saw him at least nine times, especially in the dining hall.
Another student was concerned that she might encounter a male student at any time due to his presence on campus. MSU found that he had sexually assaulted her in 2014, but the conclusion was overturned after a second investigation.
In another case, a male student dropped out in 2014 and had no further contact with a female student who had accused him of assault, the appeals court noted.
The lawsuit cited Title IX, a federal law forbidding discrimination based on gender in education.
The alleged incidents of assault preceded the Larry Nassar scandal at Michigan State. The U.S. Education Department found that the school failed to respond to reports of sexual misconduct against Nassar and failed to take interim measures to protect students while complaints were pending.
Michigan State in September promised to make substantial changes to its Title IX procedures.