Reversing the dismissal of the plaintiff’s Title IX complaint against Purdue University by a magistrate judge, the Seventh Circuit breathed new life into a claim against the university by a former student. The student, referred to only as John Doe in the opinion as is common in Title IX suits, alleged that Purdue University’s improper handling of a Title IX investigation ruined his ability to pursue a career in the Navy.
John Doe was a student at Purdue University on an ROTC scholarship when he was accused of sexual assault by a former girlfriend, who also was a member of Purdue’s ROTC program. After the university’s investigation, it held a hearing where, according to John’s complaint, the university prohibited him from presenting evidence and witnesses. Further, the university did not require John’s accuser to testify but instead chose to consider a letter written by one of the university’s Title IX coordinators containing a summary of the accusations against John. The university ultimately found John guilty of sexual assault and suspended him for one academic year. In addition, John lost his scholarship, was involuntarily discharged from the ROTC program, and banned from re-enlistment in the program. Purdue also shared the findings of its investigation with the Navy.
The university moved to dismiss John Doe’s complaint. A magistrate granted the motion to dismiss finding that John had failed to state a claim under Title IX. The Seventh Circuit began its analysis by reiterating that the protections of Title IX are enforceable through an implied cause of action. The court then proceeded to review the doctrinal tests developed by other circuits for establishing bias based on one’s sex. The Seventh Circuit declined to adopt any particular test opting instead to simply review the totality of the allegations to determine if it creates an inference that sex was a motivating factor in the university’s decision. Continue reading ›