FIRST CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS ALLOWS STUDENT'S CONTRACT CLAIMS TO MOVE FORWARD AGAINST BOSTON COLLEGE FOLLOWING DEAN'S INTERFERENCE IN TITLE IX HEARING
By Jonathan Cook
Boston College's Dean of Students Interfered In Student's Title IX Sexual Assualt Hearing. In 2012, Boston College charged Plaintiff John Doe (hereinafter "Doe") with sexual assaulting another student while attending an off-campus event. Following a two-day Title IX Administrative hearing Doe was found responsible for lesser offenses including indecent assault and battery. Boston College denied Doe's request for appeal.
Doe's parents believe their son was the victim of an unfair process and requested Boston College conduct an independent review of the disciplinary proceedings. It is no surprise that Boston College's "independent" review found no wrongdoing. It is rare for a College or University to acknowledge errors affected the outcome of a hearing even in cases like this with strong evidence to the contrary.
Subsequently, Doe and his parents sued the Trustees of Boston College and several BC officials alleging that "Defendants breached a contract by failing to adhere to certain written policies in their investigation and adjudication of sexual assault accusations against Doe; violated the implied duty of good faith and fair dealings under state law; arrived at an erroneous outcome and acted with deliberate indifference in violation of Title IX; acted with negligence when conducting the disciplinary hearing; and negligently inflicted emotional distress (NIED)." See NACUA summary.
The court is allowing Doe's breach of contract claim to move forward for a finding of fact on the following issues:
1) Whether comments by the Dean of Students to the Board Chair discouraging a verdict of “no finding” in favor of John Doe, inappropriately interfered with the Board’s decision and;
2) Whether the Dean of Students’ request to the Board “to give special treatment to the prime alternative culprit” breached Doe’s reasonable expectation of a fair procedure, since his primary defense hinged on Doe’s contention that someone else had committed the assault.
The 1st Circuit joins the 2nd Circuit and 6th Circuit in issuing a ruling favorable to basic fairness in Title IX proceedings.
Boston College, like all private institutions, has no obligation to provide Due Process or any other constitutional protections afforded to students at publicly funded "state schools". However, private institutions are mandated to provide basic rights to students accused of sexual misconduct under Title IX including "prompt, fair and impartial" disciplinary proceedings. See Campus SaVE Act.
To allow this kind of intrusion on the deliberative process by any administrator, especially an administrator with the power wielded by a dean of students would set a precedent inconsistent with the Act.
To read the full opinion visit John Doe, Mary Doe, and James Doe v. Trustees of Boston College, et al. (1st Cir. June 8, 2018)
Remember: although it is extremely important to hire an experienced Student Defense Lawyer as early in Title IX Campus Disciplinary Proceedings as possible (as soon as notice of charge(s) is received, if not before), it is never too late. Whether a student has already been sanctioned and is in the appeals state or even after an appeal has been denied, an experienced Student Defense Attorney can offer invaluable help. For more information visit the Department of Education's OCR Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct.
Jonathan Cook at New England Student Defense has represented over 150 students at Colleges and Universities nationwide from Yale University and Georgetown University to the University of Houston and Tulane University.
These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.