Update: In January 2022, a panel of Third Circuit judges ruled in favor of Karlie’s family and unanimously reversed the district court’s decision, allowing her family’s Title IX case to go to trial. Applying the standard set out by the Supreme Court more than two decades ago, the Third Circuit explained that Title IX liability is not based on the classification of a harasser as a student, guest, or other type of third party but rather on whether the school had “substantial control over both the harasser and the context in which the known harassment occurred.” And in this case, although Karlie’s abuser was not a student at Millersville University, a jury could conclude that the University had control over both him and the context of the harassment in Karlie’s dorm room. (Note: Title VII also requires employers to protect employees from harassment by third parties, including customers and vendors.)
In March 2021, NWLC joined an amicus brief submitted by Women’s Law Project and Public Justice on Feb. 12, 2021 in Hall v. Millersville University in support of the family of a college student, Karlie Hall, who was killed in her dorm room by her then-boyfriend. A few months before Karlie’s death, Millersville University had become aware that she was experiencing dating violence on campus but did little to protect her. When Karlie’s family sued the university, a district court in Pennsylvania held that Millersville was not responsible for her death because her abuser was not a student. The amicus brief supports Karlie’s family position that the university is liable under Title IX for Karlie’s death. Specifically, the brief explains that dating violence is a dangerous—and often lethal—form of sex-based violence that frequently targets young women and deprives victims of educational access. Moreover, when a school has actual notice of dating violence within its education program and has the ability to take corrective action, it is required to respond under Title IX, regardless of who is committing the dating violence. For example, a school can remove a non-student from campus and issue a no-trespass order prohibiting them from returning. The amicus brief concludes by stating that Millersville knew Karlie was experiencing dating violence yet allowed it to escalate to homicide, thereby making the university liable under Title IX for her death.
To learn more, please read the Women’s Law Project’s blog post about the Hall vs. Millersville University amicus brief.