Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Rossley v. Drake University, 979 F.3d 1184 (8th Cir. 2020)

School type: Private
State: Iowa
Federal Circuit: Eighth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion for summary judgment
Keywords: Erroneous outcome, Title IX

Plaintiff, who was expelled from Drake University for alleged sexual misconduct, appealed from the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Drake on his Title IX “erroneous outcome,” ADA, and state-law implied contract claims.

Plaintiff was accused by a female student, known in court papers as Jane Doe, of having sexual intercourse with her when she was incapacitated by alcohol. Plaintiff was also severely intoxicated at the time and does not remember having intercourse with Jane Doe, but does remember her performing oral sex on him in his car just before he blacked out. A significant portion of Plaintiff’s argument revolved around Drake’s differential treatment of the two students, given that Plaintiff did raise the issue of his own potential incapacitation in the course of the investigation.

With regard to Plaintiff’s erroneous outcome claim, the Eighth Circuit applied the standard that it adopted in Doe v. University of Arkansas. This standard, first announced by the Seventh Circuit in Doe v. Purdue University, rejects the traditional doctrinal tests and instead asks holistically whether, taken as a whole, a plaintiff’s claim sufficiently alleges that they were discriminated against on the basis of sex. Even under this pleading standard, however, the court found that Rossley had not present sufficient evidence “to allow a reasonable jury to find that Drake disciplined him on the basis of sex.”

Whatever problems Rossley may have alleged with Drake’s policies, investigation, and approach to sexual misconduct cases in general, the court held that Drake’s approach could not “fairly be found to be inherently gender-biased.” Nor was the court persuaded by statistical evidence showing that virtually all sexual misconduct respondents at Drake were male.

The court also upheld the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Plaintiff’s ADA claim, finding that although Plaintiff did have disabilities (ADHD and dyslexia) for which he was entitled to accommodations, he had failed to request any accommodations in his Title IX proceedings.