OMAHA, Neb. – A federal judge on Friday denied a motion for summary judgement to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit brought against Chadron State College and the Nebraska State College System by a former female international student over the response to her report of 2016 on-campus rape.
Federal District Judge Joseph Batallion in Omaha ruled that there appears to be enough questions of fact that a jury should decide and order the case to move forward toward a trial. The two sides will work with Batallion’s office to schedule a trial and pre-trial conference
Batallion’s ruling was highly critical of Chadron State, saying “the record shows that the college arguably turned a blind eye to nonconsensual sexual encounters…responded with deliberate indifference,” and failed to live up to the “standard of care and the parameters of an appropriate response.”
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in 2017, the woman was working at a dorm when she was reportedly raped by another student in the early morning hours of Sept. 19, 2016. She told a counselor of the assault a few hours later, spoke with police, and completed a rape examination kit at Chadron Community Hospital.
The lawsuit says she also met a few days later with the CSC coordinator for Title IX, the federal program which prohibits discrimination against students based on their gender. The coordinator reviewed security footage of the incident and interviewed the alleged attacker.
The coordinator’s report said the male student admitted the woman told him to stop at least once and that he pursued her into a bathroom after she ran away from him, but he was never arrested and no charges were filed against him.
Chadron State did issue a “no contact – no retaliation order” against him and restricted him from the on-campus residence hall where the woman worked.
He was also ordered to attend weekly counseling sessions, complete an online course of obtaining consent before engaging in sexual activity, and to read a book and journal his thoughts, but was not suspended or expelled from campus.
In his ruling rejecting the school’s summary judgement motion, Judge Batallion noted that decision to allow the student to remain on campus gave the appearance the college had turned a blind eye to the woman’s circumstances – adding that “there is evidence that would support a conclusion that the college’s response to the situation was not reasonable.”
The Nebraska State College System issued a statement Friday emphasizing that Batallion ruled only that a jury should decide the case. The statement also said Chadron State believes it handled the woman’s complaint “in a fair and compassionate manner and in compliance with Title IX,” and that it “looks forward to presenting its defense at trial.”
Chadron State President Dr Randy Rhine made similar comments Monday to KCSR/KBPY news.