A federal judge has refused to throw out parts of a lawsuit alleging Wichita State University violated Title IX, the federal civil rights law that protects against sex discrimination.
The lawsuit alleges the school and its president retaliated against Wade Robinson when it demoted him from his role as vice president of student affairs and later terminated his employment in 2015. Robinson says he was fired for voicing concerns over how sexual assault investigations, including one in 2013 involving a WSU men’s basketball player on the NCAA Final Four team, were handled by the school.
Title IX prohibits schools that receive federal funds from engaging in sex discrimination and bars them from retaliating against a person who files a complaint. Title IX also addresses sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Under the law, universities are required to start a prompt internal investigation headed by its office of student affairs.
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But the lawsuit says in the case of the WSU basketball player, WSU president John Bardo and then-athletic director Eric Sexton didn’t tell Robinson for four days about the rape accusation, thus delaying the start of an investigation. The lawsuit also mentions a 2014 rape allegation involving a member of the WSU men’s track team that Robinson investigated.
Robinson says his job was threatened and his contract ultimately wasn’t renewed after he filed a Title IX complaint against WSU and helped others assert their rights under the law. He sued in 2016, alleging the school and Bardo retaliated against him over the complaints, spoke ill of him and ruined his reputation, invaded his privacy, denied him due process rights and violated the state’s open records law.
WSU and Bardo asked the court to throw out the lawsuit, arguing that Robinson wasn’t protected under Title IX because he was performing his job duties.
In a ruling released Tuesday, Judge Daniel Crabtree said Robinson will be allowed to proceed with portions of the lawsuit that deal with the retaliation claims, the due process denial and some of the defamation claims. The rest of his claims were dismissed.
In a statement released by the university Tuesday night, David Moses, general counsel for WSU, said “we are pleased that Judge Crabtree ruled favorably...on several portions of our request” to dismiss the lawsuit.
Of the five claims made by Robinson, Moses said, the court dismissed two entirely and partially dismissed two others.
“We believe the university and President Bardo acted properly in its dealings with Robinson and in its Title IX actions,” Moses said. “The university takes its Title IX responsibilities seriously. Accusations made by victims of sexual assault, or in their behalf, are reviewed and assessed by university staff trained in Title IX issues.”
An investigation may then follow, Moses said, after facts are gathered during the review and assessment phase.
“The judge’s opinion issued Tuesday noted that it wasn’t a judgment on the truth of the claims made in Robinson’s lawsuit,” Moses said.
Contributing: Stan Finger of the Eagle.