Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Schaumleffel v. Muskingum University, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36350 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 6, 2018)

School type: Private
State: Ohio
Federal Circuit: Sixth
Decision primarily favorable to: Student
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Breach of contract, Title IX, Training materials

The court denied defendants’ motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Title IX and breach of contract claims, as well as other claims including defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, promissory estoppel, and negligence.

Plaintiff and Defendant Mackenzie Dickerson met on Tinder and began a sexual relationship. Dickerson filed a sexual misconduct charge against Plaintiff after the university told her of another sexual misconduct case between Plaintiff and Defendant Macey Zambori. Plaintiff and Zambori had met earlier that year. They engaged in some sexual acts, but never had intercourse. After a few weeks of dating, Zambori filed a No Contact Directive, which prohibited Plaintiff from contacting her. However, Zambori did not file a sexual misconduct charge against Plaintiff until after the university requested that she do so because “it happened to another girl.” The university found Plaintiff guilty of both charges and expelled him from Muskingum.

Regarding the breach of contract claim, “Plaintiff [] asserts that Muskingum breached the contractual agreement in how it handled Plaintiff’s disciplinary process and hearing, such as failing to conduct an impartial investigation and he specifically references that Muskingum did not have students on Plaintiff’s hearing panel in breach of the Student Handbook policy.” The court held the breach of contract claim could not hinge on an impartial investigation because the student handbook makes no explicit promise of one. However, the handbook does require that students sit on the hearing panel, and since the university did not have students sitting on Plaintiff’s panel, his breach of contract claim was sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss on that point.

Regarding Plaintiff’s Title IX claim, the court held the claim could only stand under an erroneous outcome theory. The court explained:

Plaintiff has alleged facts that cast doubt on the accuracy and ultimate outcome of the disciplinary proceeding against him. He has submitted significant evidence to establish that he and Miss Dickerson and Miss Zambori hung out/dated. Further, the timing of the complaints against him, suggest involvement by Muskingum in persuading the girls to file complaints.

Plaintiff provided examples of the university’s possible gender bias “from the way Muskingum defines victim as a woman, to Allan and Zifzal’s biased training materials, to Muskingum’s fear of federal funding being cut if no action was taken.” The court held this was enough to suggest gender bias and discrimination against Plaintiff and that it would be inappropriate to dismiss the claim at this stage.

The court, citing prematurity, also declined to dismiss defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims against Plaintiff’s two accusers.