Campus Due Process Litigation Tracker

Venegas v. Wright State Univ., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 133378 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 21, 2017)

School type: Public
State: Ohio
Federal Circuit: Sixth
Decision primarily favorable to: University
Stage of litigation: Motion to dismiss
Keywords: Due process

The court granted defendant’s motion to dismiss.

Plaintiffs Venegas and Sondini were student-athletes at Wright State University (WSU) in 2016 when teammates Grant Esposito (“Esposito”) and Tyler Smith (“Smith”) accused them of sexual assault. Additionally, Smith and Esposito accused Sondini of three other offenses. Plaintiffs were found to have violated WSU’s student conduct code and both were expelled.

Venegas and Sondini bring claims of due process and equal protection violations under the Fourteenth Amendment, violation of their First Amendment right to free speech and free association, violation of Title IX and breach of contract. In addition, Venegas’ claim for violation of the equal protection clause also involves a claim for disparate treatment based on race and national origin.

On the Plaintiffs’ due process claim, the court noted that only actions that would “shock the conscience” can be the basis of such a claim and dismissed the claims since WSU officials’ actions would not meet this bar. On the Plaintiffs’ equal protection claim, the Plaintiffs failed to allege that they were part of a protected class. But even if they did, “education is not a fundamental right subject to an equal protection claim.” The Plaintiffs were granted leave to file an amended complaint where they would have to allege allege “personal animosity, illegal prejudice, or a personal or financial stake in the outcome” from WSU officials.

On Plaintiffs’ First Amendment claim, the court reasoned that case law did not suggest that prohibiting students from talking to others about an ongoing investigation would be considered a prior restraint and that plaintiffs did not question WSU’s interest in maintaining campus security.

On Plaintiffs’ Title IX claim, the court allowed the motion to dismiss under theories of sex discrimination, deliberate indifference and selective enforcement. Since all federal claims were dismissed, the court refused to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ breach of contract claim.