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Court Tosses Title IX Lawsuit Brought By Ex-Haskell Indian Nations Student

Jeremy Bernfeld
KCUR 89.3

A federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit of a former Haskell Indian Nations University student who says she was raped by two of the school’s football players. She sought damages from the school, the federal government, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Haskell employees.

The 21-page order by U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ruled that the government and university were immune from damages under the doctrine of sovereign immunity and that the ex-student had other remedies against the employees.

Marten did, however, allow her to amend her lawsuit to sue the government for violating the Privacy Act, which regulates the collection and use of personal information by federal agencies.

At the same time, he denied her request to continue the lawsuit anonymously as Jane Doe H. He noted that in similar cases, other courts have generally required adult plaintiffs to proceed in their own name.

Dan Curry, Doe’s attorney, said he was disappointed with the ruling but would continue to pursue the Privacy Act claim.

“We do believe that Haskell should be held to their own Title IX standards and that there were clear due process violations in the way Jane Doe was separated from the university,” Curry said in an email.

Haskell, based in Lawrence, Kansas, is a four-year college managed by the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs. It's open to members of federally recognized Native American tribes and does not charge tuition. 

Doe filed her lawsuit in October. She contended that after she was raped in a dorm in November 2014 by two male students, she got into a fight with a third male student in March 2016. She said that university officers pressured the male student, who claimed she assaulted him, to file Title IX charges against her and then effectively expelled her from the university.

The lawsuit alleged she was subject to a hostile educational environment under Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in education, and retaliation. It also alleged that the individual defendants violated her due process and privacy rights.

The students Doe accused of raping her were tried on criminal charges.

The trial of Jared Wheeler ended with a hung jury in June 2016. He later pleaded no contest to aggravated battery and was sentenced to 60 days in jail and two years’ probation. The other student, Galen Satoe, was tried twice. Both trials ended with a hung jury. Two months ago, the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office said that it would not try him a third time.

Both Wheeler and Satoe said their encounter with Doe was consensual.

Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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