John Doe v. Columbia Coll. Chi.

Decision Date25 October 2017
Docket NumberCase No. 17–CV–00748
Citation299 F.Supp.3d 939
Parties John DOE, Plaintiff, v. COLUMBIA COLLEGE CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois

Daliah Saper, Chad David Nold, Saper Law Offices, LLC, Chicago, IL, Eric J. Rosenberg, Rosenberg & Ball Co. LPA, Granville, OH, for Plaintiff.

Scott L. Warner, Katelan Elizabeth Little, Franczek Radelet P.C., Chicago, IL, Michael Robert Lieber, Lieber Law Group LLC, Wilmette, IL, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
AMY J. ST. EVE, United States District Court Judge

On January 30, 2017, Plaintiff John Doe ("Doe") brought the present Complaint against Defendants Jane Roe and Columbia College Chicago ("CCC"), collectively "Defendants," alleging violations of the 20 U.S.C. § 1681, Title IX ("Title IX"), defamation, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Before the Court is CCC's motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the Court grants CCC's motion without prejudice and grants Plaintiff leave to file an Amended Complaint consistent with this opinion.

BACKGROUND

This case arises from an alleged sexual assault that occurred at CCC and the discipline that resulted from that alleged assault. Plaintiff and Defendant Roe were both students at CCC in 2015, and after they had a sexual interaction on December 11, 2015, Roe accused Plaintiff of sexually assaulting her when she was incapacitated by alcohol. (R. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 4, 22–23.) CCC then suspended Plaintiff for the 2016–17 academic year—a decision Plaintiff claims was wrongful. (Id. ¶ 23.)

I. Roe's Initial Complaint and Doe's Response

Doe alleges that all physical contact between himself and Roe on December 11, 2015 was consensual and that Roe requested that Doe engage in sexual intercourse with her—a request he declined. (Id. ¶ 5.) Doe claims that he presented CCC with the following pieces of evidence that demonstrated he had not sexually assaulted Roe when she was incapacitated by alcohol:

• A toxicologist expert determined that Roe falsely alleged her self-induced alcohol consumption caused her to fade "in and out of consciousness" when interacting with Doe;
• Affidavits from three CCC students indicated that Roe did not manifest signs of incapacitation the night of incident;
• CCC's panel ("Hearing Panel") concluded that Roe falsely alleged that Doe held her down and forced her to engage in non-consensual kissing;
• A polygraph expert confirmed that Doe honestly testified that he did not force Roe to perform oral sex on him, Roe did not push his head away when he performed oral sex on her, and Roe did not appear to Doe to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
• Roe sent Doe a text message the morning after the incident saying she had a "great time" with Doe;
• Roe admitted to the Hearing Panel that her responses to Doe were "unclear or very passive" despite previously claiming that she made repeated requests for the sexual interaction to stop.

(Id. ¶ 6.) Doe alleges that Roe acted with malice by falsely telling CCC that he assaulted her because she was angry that Doe declined Roe's request to have sexual intercourse. (Id. ¶ 7.)

II. Roe's Non–Privileged Defamation

Doe alleges that in February 2016, Roe began making false statements to third parties accusing Doe of sexually assaulting her. (Id. ¶ 8.) Roe made statements, for example, to individuals who anonymously gave Doe a note on or about February 3, 2016, which threatened Doe and called him a "fucker" for sexually assaulting Roe. (Id. ¶ 9.) Also in February 2016, Roe made a social media post in which she stated: "I have 46 followers her [sic] on Twitter and nothing to lose ... why the hell would I lie about being raped? ... [t]he point is Columbia needs to get their shit together because I'm leaving this school & this city if they don't do something now ... [because] they are just letting a predator get away and it makes me sick." (Id. ¶ 10.) Although that post did not mention Doe, several of her Twitter followers responded with statements such as "[Doe] is a rapist and should not have the privilege of attending school at Columbia," and "boy like [Doe] are the reason # INeedFeminism." (Id. ¶ 11.) Roe also made statements to friends, which led female CCC students to make the following social media posts, among others:

"I do not feel safe knowing I live in the same building as a rapist. [D]o something about [Doe]."
"[Doe] FROM ... AT PLYMOUTH RAPED SOMEONE. PASS IT ON."
• "[Doe] is a rapist and endangering all of Columbia's students, & he is still allowed to live here. Columbia is so disappointing.

(Id. ¶ 12.) Doe alleges Roe's statements caused a female friend of hers to punch Doe and caused other friends to give him the middle finger. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 15.)

III. Doe's Complaints to CCC About Roe's Retaliatory Conduct

On March 13, 2016, Doe informed CCC that he was suffering retaliation, physical assault, and widespread defamation at the hands of Roe and her friends, after he engaged in "protected activity" by participating in CCC's investigation. (Id. ¶ 28.) CCC's Student Sexual Misconduct Policy & Procedures ("SMP") states in § VI that it "is a violation of this Policy and Title IX to retaliate in any way against an individual who has ... assisted in the Grievance Procedures. Columbia will promptly investigate any allegation of retaliation and pursue disciplinary action as needed." (Id. ¶ 29.) Despite this policy and Doe's complaints, after Doe complained, CCC sent Doe a letter stating that it was not aware of Roe's friends' physically assaulting Doe. (Id. ¶ 30.) On April 8, 2016, Doe sent CCC a social media post from a female student that stated: "@coolandcozy one of my best friends punched [Doe] in the face. [I]t was immediately reported to the police and the dean. Isn't that cute." (Id. ¶ 31.) On April 8, 2016, CCC Associate Dean Wilson–Taylor responded to Doe in a letter stating that CCC was not able to initially identify the student, but that CCC had addressed the issue with the female student and asking Doe to inform him if the student interacted with him at all. (Id. ¶ 32.) Doe alleges on information and belief that CCC did not discipline the female student in the same way it disciplines male students involved in similar conduct. (Id. ¶ 33.)

On March 13, 2016, Doe informed CCC that Roe's retaliation was forcing him to withdraw from CCC. (Id. ¶ 34.) He stated that it was impossible for him to focus on school after being falsely accused of sexual assault and then being physically attacked. (Id. ) Doe sent another email to CCC on March 29, 2016 informing CCC that two of Roe's friends gave him the middle finger. (Id. ¶ 35.) Doe alleges that CCC's communications with Doe did not respond to his allegations, and as a consequence, he sent a letter to CCC on April 8, 2016, stating that he believed CCC's failure to respond to Roe's retaliation created a hostile and abusive environment for himself and other male students. (Id. ¶ 36.) On or about April 22, 2016, Doe informed CCC that a CCC student texted Doe's then girlfriend, who is now his wife, and told her he was a "rapist" who was "lucky he has his teeth." (Id. ¶ 40.) On April 25, 2016, CCC sent Doe a letter informing him that CCC had spoken to the student and told him not to have any contact with Doe or his wife. (Id. ¶ 41.) Despite this letter, Doe alleges that CCC refused to accommodate Doe's wife when she wanted to be in a different class than Roe after Roe threated to fight her on social media. (Id. ) Doe alleges that these interactions are evidence of CCC's repeated refusal to discipline students who were engaging in retaliation in violation of Title IX. (Id. ¶¶ 42–43.) Doe also alleges upon information and belief that CCC never disciplined Roe for violating CCC's no-contact order or for disclosing confidential information related to CCC's disciplinary process. (Id. ¶ 45.)

IV. CCC's Disciplinary Proceeding

Doe claims that he repeatedly put CCC on notice that its disciplinary proceeding violated its own policies and Title IX. (Id. ¶ 45.) In a March 13 letter, for example, Doe informed CCC of the following violations, among others:

SMP § XIV(C)(1)"the Coordinator ... shall serve ... the Respondent with written notification than an Actionable claim has been filed, a description of the type of Sexual Misconduct alleged ..., and the investigator's name."
SMP § XIV(C)(2)"the Coordinator shall meet ... the Respondent to apprise [him] of [his] rights under this Policy and to ... provide ... notice of the types of information that likely will be disclosed during the investigation ..."
SMP § 1 XII—CCC "shall complete an adequate, reliable, and impartial investigation."

(Id. ) CCC responded by informing Doe that its policies were designed to comply with the rules and regulations issued by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights ("OCR"), including providing due process to the alleged perpetrator and employing procedures designed to lead to supportable decisions. (Id. ¶¶ 46–47.)

Doe claims CCC violated Title IX and its own policies because it completed its "investigation" of the incident and scheduled a disciplinary hearing before Doe had access to Roe's complaint and allegations and then informed Doe of Roe's accusations in person not by mail or email as CCC's policy requires. (Id. ¶ 48.) At the time of Doe's meeting with CCC officials, CCC had only provided Doe with an email asking him to meet, an email prohibiting him from entering certain CCC buildings, and an email stating that he may have violated CCC's sexual misconduct policy. (Id. ¶ 49.) Doe claims that he was thus denied the opportunity raise a conflict of interest issue with regard to the CCC investigator or to submit evidence and witnesses, and that he was not updated on the status of the investigation. (Id. ¶ 50.)

Eventually, on April 22, 2016, after requesting to submit evidence,...

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