Title IX Provides Broad Protections for Survivors. That’s Why We Filed A Brief in Doe v. University of Kentucky
*** Update: Victory! *** On August 19, 2020, the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision, holding that a reasonably jury could find that Jane was denied the benefits of an education program or activity at the University. In support of its reasoning, the Circuit noted that Jane lived on the University’s campus, used its dining hall, and participated in its student activities. This decision is important because it affirms that Title IX has a broad scope and protects a wide range of people who are subjected to sex discrimination in education.
CW: Discussion of sexual violence
Last week, NWLC filed an amicus brief, or “friend of the court” brief, in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of Jane Doe in support of her case against the University of Kentucky. The lower court had dismissed her case, finding that as a community college student who was taking classes and staying on campus, she had no Title IX civil rights protections after she was raped on campus. Doe is appealing the case with her attorneys, Correia & Puth, PLLC.
NWLC and 47 additional organizations have weighed in to provide a host of legal reasons as to why Title IX protects all individuals who experience sex discrimination in an educational program or activity and to highlight that excluding community college students on this campus from Title IX protections would create a scenario where one group would likely have fewer civil rights protections based on gender, race and socioeconomic lines.
Jane was a community college student at Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) and lived on the University of Kentucky’s (University) campus. She had access to its facilities and attended classes in its buildings. The University owned property used by BCTC and had an agreement allowing BCTC students like Jane to live in the University’s dorms – and this agreement also required those students to follow the University’s Code of Conduct.
Within weeks of starting classes, Jane was raped in her dorm room by a University student. Jane reported the assault to the University’s police department. But in struggling to cope with the trauma of the sexual assault, she dropped out of her classes and withdrew from University housing.
Jane Doe filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, alleging that the University discriminated against her in violation of Title IX and, as noted above, the court dismissed her case.
The district court wrongly held that Jane was not able to pursue her lawsuit against the University because she was not a student at the University and did not participate in its educational programs or activities. According to the district court, the University had no responsibility under Title IX to protect Jane.
In our brief, co-authored by Holwell, Shuster & Goldberg LLP, and joined by 47 gender justice and civil rights organizations across the country, we explained that Title IX protects Jane and individuals like her, and that by dismissing her case, the district court ignored Title IX’s broad language, legislative history, and purpose – that schools must protect all members of the educational community from sex discrimination. We explained that if the district court’s decision stands, it would set a very dangerous precedent by excluding many individuals from Title IX’s protections, particularly students from community colleges and vocational schools who are participating in programs on university campuses, along with visitors, recruits, and applicants.
In short, this ruling is both unlawful and bad policy. And that’s why NWLC, alongside 47 organizations committed to the rights of all to be free from sex discrimination, filed this brief.