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Farmer v. Kansas State University

United States District Court, D. Kansas

March 13, 2017

TESSA FARMER, Plaintiff,
v.
KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JULIE A. ROBINSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Tessa Farmer brings this action against Defendant Kansas State University (“KSU”), alleging that KSU failed to adequately respond after Plaintiff, a KSU student, reported she was sexually assaulted at a KSU fraternity. Plaintiff alleges the following three claims: (1) violation of Title IX; (2) violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act (“KCPA”); and (3) negligence. This matter comes before the Court on KSU's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Doc. 14). The parties have fully briefed the motion.

         Additionally, the United States has filed a Statement of Interest (Doc. 32), to which KSU has responded (Doc. 44). The United States submits its Statement of Interest pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 517, which provides that

[t]he Solicitor General, or any officer of the Department of Justice, may be sent by the Attorney General to any State or district in the United States to attend to the interests of the United States in a suit pending in a court of the United States . . . or to attend to any other interest of the United States.

         The United States asserts it has an interest in this case because the United States Departments of Justice and Education share responsibility for enforcing Title IX in the education context, and because it has an interest in ensuring “effective private enforcement of Title IX in court.”[1] KSU argues that the Court should not consider the United States' Statement of Interest, because Plaintiff's administrative complaint is still pending before the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”), and thus the United States should remain neutral in this litigation. Notwithstanding the apparently ongoing administrative proceedings before the OCR, the Court sees no reason why the United States cannot submit a statement of interest pursuant to § 517 to advance the various interests it has identified. Accordingly, the Court has considered the United States' Statement of Interest as well as KSU's response thereto.

         Having considered the parties' and the United States' briefings, the Court is now prepared to rule. For the reasons stated in detail below, the Court grants in part and denies in part KSU's motion to dismiss.

         I. Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must present factual allegations, assumed to be true, that “raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ” and must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”[2] To state a claim for relief under Rule 12(b)(6), “the complaint must give the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for these claims.”[3] The plausibility standard does not require a showing of probability that a defendant has acted unlawfully, but requires more than “a sheer possibility.”[4] “[M]ere ‘labels and conclusions, ' and ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' will not suffice; a plaintiff must offer specific factual allegations to support each claim.”[5] Finally, the Court must accept the nonmoving party's factual allegations as true and may not dismiss on the ground that it appears unlikely the allegations can be proven.[6]

         The Supreme Court has explained the analysis as a two-step process. For the purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court “must take all the factual allegations in the complaint as true, [but] we ‘are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'”[7] Thus, the court must first determine if the allegations are factual and entitled to an assumption of truth, or merely legal conclusions that are not entitled to an assumption of truth.[8] Second, the court must determine whether the factual allegations, when assumed true, “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.”[9] “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”[10]

         II. Background

         The following facts are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint and are construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. At all times relevant to this case, Plaintiff was a student at KSU.

         KSU Fraternities

         KSU fraternities are student housing organizations that are open only to KSU students. On its website, KSU describes its fraternities as “Kansas State University Organizations.” Plaintiff alleges that 21% of the undergraduate population at KSU is affiliated with campus fraternities and sororities. The fraternities collect rent and dues from their student members, and provide housing at off-campus locations. The fraternities are overseen by national chapters as well as by KSU. The Director of the fraternity relevant to this cause of action is a KSU instructor.

         In its promotional materials, KSU describes the relationship between the University and the Greek Community:

The Greek community at Kansas State University has been in existence since 1913, with a continuing tradition of excellence. Through the years we have been a community that fosters academic excellence, leadership ability, philanthropic services, and active contributions to both the campus and Manhattan communities. Our Greek community consists of 17 sororities and 28 fraternities, with a total membership of almost 4, 000 undergraduate students. While each organization maintains its own activities, traditions, and national affiliations, each is founded on similar principles of scholarship, leadership, community service, and lifelong friendship.[11]

         KSU further states in materials intended for parents of students:

The Greek experience at K-State provides a safe and fun way to maximize the college experience. Your son or daughter will also find personal growth and development extending far beyond his or her years on campus.[12]

         Additionally, KSU employs five individuals in its Office of Greek Affairs, which is located in the KSU Student Union. The Office of Greek Affairs is responsible for carrying out a number of functions to support fraternities and sororities, including administrative assistance, advisory responsibilities, education and development, serving as a liaison to chapter presidents, holding regular meetings with chapters, and conducting chapter assessments. KSU has the authority to regulate fraternity houses, and promulgates rules for regulating parties and certain other activities at fraternity houses and events.

         Alleged Sexual Assault

         On Friday, March 6, 2015, Plaintiff went with a group of friends to a KSU fraternity party, where members passed out margaritas and beer. Another person at the party carried around a bag of wine and gave people, including Plaintiff, drinks directly from the bag's spout. Plaintiff became very intoxicated.

         At about 2:00 a.m., a designated driver took Plaintiff home. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff received a Facebook message from KSU student T.R., a member of the fraternity she had known since high school and had seen at the party. T.R. told Plaintiff she should come to his fraternity house because they were “still turning up.” He was persistent, even offering to pick her up. Plaintiff relented, and T.R. picked her up and brought her to the fraternity house. T.R. and Plaintiff went to his room and had sex. Sometime later, T.R. told Plaintiff he was going to start his car, presumably to take her home, and he left Plaintiff alone in the room.

         While T.R. was gone, Tessa discovered a stranger had been hiding in the closet. She later learned he was C.M., another KSU student. C.M. admitted T.R. had made him go into the closet. Plaintiff, inebriated and confused, fell face first onto a bed, where she blacked out. C.M. pulled down Plaintiff's pants and penetrated her vaginally with his penis while pulling her hair and whispering in her ear. Plaintiff regained consciousness and screamed into the mattress until he finished. C.M. did not use a condom. When T.R. returned, Plaintiff was sobbing and in shock. T.R. showed no surprise by his roommate's presence or by Plaintiff being so upset.

         At 3:47 a.m., T.R. messaged Plaintiff again on Facebook to ask if she was on birth control. He told her he was sorry she was so upset and he did not mean for that to happen. Plaintiff asked T.R. twice for the rapist's name over the following day. T.R. did not respond and blocked Plaintiff on Facebook.

         Plaintiff woke her roommate at about about 3:50 a.m. and told her she had been raped. Plaintiff's roommate accompanied Plaintiff to the hospital where she underwent a complete rape kit, an extremely intense and invasive process that takes hours. The rape kit included an examiner placing a probe in Plaintiff's vagina, taking samples off her skin and under her fingernails, combing through her pubic hair, and taking pictures of her body and vagina. Plaintiff received drugs to prevent transmission and to prevent pregnancy from the rape. After she was done getting treatment at the hospital, Plaintiff went to the Riley County Police Department (“RCPD”) to report the rape. Her case is still under investigation by the police.

         Plaintiff's Report of Sexual Assault and KSU Response

         On the Monday or Tuesday following the alleged rape, Plaintiff reported it to the KSU Center for Advocacy, Response, and Education (“CARE”) director, Jenna Tripodi. Ms. Tripodi told Plaintiff she had two options: she could go to the RCPD or she could report the rape to the KSU Interfraternity Council (“IFC”). Ms. Tripodi told Plaintiff the IFC would not investigate the rape, the alleged assailant, or any other individuals, and instead would look only at the fraternity chapter more generally. Ms. Tripodi did not mention to Plaintiff KSU's sexual misconduct policy or Title IX, and she did not refer her to a Title IX coordinator. Ms. Tripodi also did not tell Plaintiff about the option to file a complaint against the student-assailant with the KSU Office of Institutional Equity (“OIE”), which investigates sexual assault, or that OIE could investigate what happened and potentially have the student-assailant removed from KSU. Plaintiff was not offered a no-contact order. Plaintiff was not told about KSU's sexual assault policies, and in response to her report of rape, no evaluation was done on the effects of the off-campus rape in the educational setting.

         Plaintiff filed a complaint with the IFC on March 31, 2015. Five days later, the IFC notified the chapter it had completed its investigation and would take no further action. More than three months later, Plaintiff received a letter from the IFC stating that the IFC Judicial Board investigates chapter behavior, not individual behavior. The IFC Judicial Board determined that the chapter as a whole had not violated any IFC policies. Plaintiff learned that the student-assailant was sanctioned for alcohol use but not for Plaintiff's rape. Plaintiff also reported the rape to a KSU professor, but no action came from this report.

         The following summer Plaintiff became aware of Title IX, and learned that KSU could take disciplinary action and bring sanctions against the student-assailant. On August 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed a complaint with KSU's OIE, copying Ms. Tripodi. Ms. Tripodi replied, “The current Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment and Sexual Violence, K-State's Sexual Misconduct policy, specifies that it covers behaviors that happen[] on campus and at university sponsored events; which does not cover Fraternity Houses.”[13] Plaintiff next heard from a KSU investigator. Plaintiff asked the investigator if it was true that KSU's current policy did not cover rapes at fraternity houses. The investigator responded that Ms. Tripodi's statement was correct, but the investigator would nonetheless need to collect more information to determine if the rape related to discrimination in a KSU-sponsored program or activity. Plaintiff responded to the investigator, in writing, as follows:

My rapist is on my campus with me - isn't the risk of encountering him on campus while I am trying to get my education mean the discrimination is ongoing and related to campus?
Let me know the questions you have to ask that aren't covered by my statement. There hasn't been any other incidents then [sic] what I reported. I'd rather not have a meeting hanging over me if this is something you would [not] actually do anything about. If you can take action, like suspend or expel the rapists, I am 100% on board to go through any interviews or investigative processes. I think you should take that action, not only for me because I was raped, but because he shouldn't be free to do this to any other K-State students. This was a truly horrific experience.
Thank you,
Tessa[14]

         The investigator did not reply to Plaintiff, and after Plaintiff inquired again, the investigator did not answer her question directly.

         The investigator later asked Plaintiff a series of questions about the assault and aftermath, to which Plaintiff replied:

After the rape, I missed classes and had some struggles with school. I have not been able to make any changes to avoid encountering the rapist, because I don't [] exactly know what he looks like. He was, and is, a stranger. I have to walk around campus worrying that he'll be [in] class, approach me or be near me on the quad, or be at a greek event with me like homecoming. It affects my education everyday, because I am always at risk of running in to him and it[']s all the more awful that I can't recognize his face.[15]

         KSU asked Plaintiff if she needed “assistance with any accommodations related to [her] education at KSU as a result of this complaint.”[16] Plaintiff indicated she wanted the student-assailant out of school so she could freely and safely access her education. KSU asked Plaintiff if she felt “safe in [her] current walk/ride route to campus each day, ”[17] and Plaintiff responded by explaining her fears of the rapist on campus:

I feel safe in my car, but everyday I have to drive right by the building where I was raped, which is scary and make[s] me anxious and reminds me that, unless K-State takes action against the rapists on campus, campus is not truly safe for me or anyone else. I will feel much safer and more comfortable if K-State takes disciplinary action, and he is held responsible for what he did to me at a K-State fraternity.[18]

         KSU then informed Plaintiff it would not further investigate the rape, citing its policy to not investigate off-campus sexual assaults unrelated to a University program or activity. KSU suggested that Plaintiff avail herself of the “Wildcat Walks, ” where students accompany fellow students as they walk around campus, “Safe Ride, ” where fellow students drive students home on weekends, and gave her the telephone number for campus police. KSU did not investigate the student-assailant and did not take corrective action against him. Plaintiff alleges that KSU has in other circumstances exercised disciplinary control over off-campus reports of sexual assaults, including investigating a sexual assault by a KSU basketball player.

         Following Plaintiff's reports, the student-assailant remained on campus, which placed her in fear that he could be in her classes or around any corner. Plaintiff missed classes, fell into a depression, and resorted to self-destructive behaviors, including self-medicating with extensive amounts of alcohol and slitting her wrist with a razor. Plaintiff also secluded herself from friends and withdrew from KSU and sorority events and participation in leadership positions. Plaintiff refused to participate in homecoming out of the risk of seeing her alleged assailant, and she began sleeping very long hours to avoid the feelings she had when she was awake. Plaintiff once saw T.R. on her way to class, and this experience threw her into a panic attack. Plaintiff alleges that as of the filing of her Complaint, T.R. remains a student on the KSU campus, and Plaintiff continues to worry about seeing him in class, at Greek events, or otherwise on campus.

         KSU Sexual Assault Policies

         KSU defines “harassment” in the “academic environment” as conduct toward a person based on sex that “has the purpose and effect” of “creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational environment for the person” or “unreasonably interfering with the academic performance or participation in any university-sponsored activity of the person” or “threatening the academic opportunities of the person” and is sufficiently severe or pervasive that it alters the terms, conditions, or privileges of the person's academic opportunities or participation in university-sponsored activities.”[19]

         Plaintiff alleges that several KSU employees disagreed with the approach of not investigating fraternity sexual assault and expressed to University officials the concern that off-campus rape does affect a student's on-campus experience. University officials told employees that because there is so much misconduct at fraternities, KSU had taken the position to do its best to not investigate or adjudicate that misconduct, including reports of rape, purposely attempting to maintain a chasm between KSU and incidents that happen off-campus.

         III. Discussion

         A. Count 1-Title IX Claim

         Plaintiff alleges a violation of Title IX in Count 1 of the Complaint on the basis that KSU was deliberately indifferent to her report of sexual assault, which was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive as to deny her access to, and the benefits of, an educational program or activity of a federal funding recipient. Title IX provides for a private right of action against a federally funded education institution based on peer sexual harassment “where the funding recipient acts with deliberate indifference to known acts of harassment in its programs or activities.”[20] As a threshold matter, to state a Title IX claim a plaintiff must allege that the discrimination occurred within an educational “program or activity” of the funding recipient.[21]Additionally, the plaintiff must allege that the funding recipient (1) has actual knowledge of, and (2) is deliberately indifferent to, (3) sexual harassment that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive as to (4) deprive access to the educational benefits or opportunities provided by the school.[22] Finally, the plaintiff must allege that the funding recipient's deliberate indifference subjected her to harassment by, at a minimum, alleging that the deliberate indifference “‘cause[d her] to undergo' harassment” or made her “liable or vulnerable” to it.[23]

         A Title IX plaintiff may proceed under two theories of liability. A plaintiff may allege that the funding recipient had actual knowledge of, and was deliberately indifferent to, prior complaints of harassment, which led to the current harassment for which redress is sought.[24]Alternatively, a plaintiff may allege that the funding recipient was on notice of, and was deliberately indifferent to, the plaintiff's complaints concerning the current harassment, which deprived the plaintiff of the educational benefits and opportunities provided by the funding recipient.[25] In her Complaint, Plaintiff appears to proceed on both theories of liability.[26]However, in her response to KSU's motion, Plaintiff disclaims any theory of liability premised on notice of and deliberate indifference to sexual assaults that occurred prior to the sexual assault perpetrated against her.[27] The Court therefore construes Plaintiff's claim as alleging that KSU had actual knowledge of and was deliberately indifferent to her report of sexual assault, rather than deliberately indifferent to known previous reports by other KSU students.

         KSU makes two primary arguments in support of its motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Title IX claim.[28] First, KSU argues the alleged sexual assault did not occur within one of its “programs or activities.” Second, KSU contends that Plaintiff has failed to allege that its deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's reports of rape caused her to suffer further harassment. KSU does not argue that Plaintiff has failed to allege the other four elements of a Title IX claim, i.e., actual knowledge, deliberate indifference, severe or pervasive harassment, and deprivation of access to education.[29] The Court therefore confines its analysis to whether Plaintiff has alleged that the sexual assault occurred within a KSU “program or activity, ” and whether Plaintiff has alleged- and whether she was required to allege-further harassment after her report of rape.

         1. Harassment Under an Education Program or Activity [30]

         Title IX is triggered only when harassment occurs within an “education program or activity” of the funding recipient.[31] The term “program or activity” includes “all of the operations of . . . a college, university, or other postsecondary institution, or a public system of higher education.”[32] According to OCR regulations, “program or activity” also includes “any academic, extracurricular, research, [or] occupational training.”[33] Plaintiff and the United States also refer to Dear Colleague Letters and “Questions and Answers” documents issued by the OCR, which bear on the scope of Title IX liability and purport to interpret how Title IX applies to fraternities and sororities. KSU responds that these documents do not carry the force of law and are not entitled to Chevron deference in part because they were not promulgated pursuant to notice-and-comment rulemaking.[34] The Court agrees and therefore does not consider the Dear Colleague Letters and “Questions and Answers” documents in determining whether Plaintiff has alleged a plausible Title IX claim.[35]

         In Davis Next Friend of LaShonda D. v. Monroe County Board of Education, the Supreme Court explained that harassment takes place under a “program or activity” of a funding recipient only when “the recipient exercises substantial control over both the harasser and the context in which the known harassment occurs.”[36] The Court found that the harassment at issue in Davis took place under a “program or activity” because the harassment occurred “during school hours and on school grounds-the bulk of G.F.'s misconduct, in fact, took place in the classroom.”[37]

         Since the ruling in Davis, courts have courts have repeatedly encountered Title IX cases in which sexual harassment or assault occurs off school grounds. For example, in Rost ex rel. K.C. v. Steamboat Springs RE-2 School District, the Tenth Circuit found that a school district could have reasonably believed that it did not have responsibility or control over several incidents of harassment that occurred off school grounds and in private settings.[38] The court explained that “there must be some nexus between the out-of-school conduct and the school” to impose Title IX liability.[39] Applying this standard, the court held that the school district was not liable under Title IX in part because there was no nexus between out-of-school harassment and the school, where “the only link to the school was an oblique and general reference to harassment or teasing on the school bus or in the halls at school.”[40] By contrast, in Simpson v. University of Colorado Boulder, the Tenth Circuit reversed a district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of a university on the plaintiffs' Title IX claim.[41] The court found the plaintiffs had presented sufficient evidence that the university exercised “control over the harasser and the environment in which the harassment occurs, ” because the sexual assaults at issue, which occurred at a private apartment off campus, were the result of an official policy by the university's football program to encourage female students to show recruits “a good time.”[42]

         In Ostrander v. Duggan, the Eighth Circuit held that a sexual assault of a university student by another student who was a member of a fraternity, at a private residence that was not owned by the fraternity or the university, was not harassment under a “program or activity.”[43]The Eighth Circuit recently held in Roe v. St. Louis University that a sexual assault by a fraternity pledge perpetrated against another university student, at a party at an off-campus apartment, did not occur under a university “program or activity.”[44] In C.R.K. v. U.S.D. 260, this Court found reasonable a school principal's conclusion that harassment was “out of the school's jurisdiction and was up to criminal justice authorities to investigate, ” where the incident at issue did not take place on school grounds or at a school activity, and occurred when school was not in session.[45] Finally, in Samuelson v. Oregon State University, the District of Oregon found that Title IX was not implicated based on a peer sexual assault, where both the alleged drugging and assault of the victim occurred at two separate off-campus apartments “that simply happened to be located in the same city as the university.”[46]

         Plaintiff alleges the following facts in her Complaint that reflect KSU's substantial control over both the assailant and the context in which the assault occurred here: (1) KSU fraternities are student housing organizations that are open only to KSU students, and on its website, KSU describes its fraternities as “Kansas State University Organizations”; (2) the director of the fraternity at issue in this case is a KSU instructor; (3) KSU promotes its fraternities on its website and to prospective students and parents; (4) KSU employs five individuals on campus in its Office of Greek Affairs, which is responsible for carrying out a number of functions to support fraternities and sororities, including administrative assistance, advisory responsibilities, education and development, serving as a liaison to chapter presidents, holding regular meetings with chapters, and conducting chapter assessments; and (5) KSU has the authority to regulate fraternity houses, and promulgates rules for regulating parties and certain other activities at fraternity houses and events. Additionally, Plaintiff has alleged plausible facts demonstrating that KSU had substantial control over the alleged assailant. The alleged assailant is a student at KSU, and Plaintiff alleges “the student-assailant was sanctioned for alcohol use but not for raping her.”[47]

         While Plaintiff's allegations do not reflect that KSU had complete control over the alleged assailant at the fraternity house, her allegations do reflect that KSU had substantial control over both the assailant and the fraternity. As the facts outlined above demonstrate, KSU allegedly devotes significant resources to the promotion and oversight of fraternities through its websites, rules, and Office of Greek Affairs. Additionally, although the fraternity is housed off campus, it is considered a “Kansas State University Organization, ” is open only to KSU students, and is directed by a KSU instructor. Finally, KSU sanctioned the alleged assailant for his alcohol use, but not for the alleged assault. Presented with these allegations, the Court is convinced that the fraternity is an “operation” of the University, and that KSU has substantial control over student conduct within the fraternity.

         KSU argues that the alleged sexual assault at issue here did not occur within an education “program or activity.” As an initial matter, the Court notes that KSU appears to have argued in its initial briefing that, as a general matter, activities occurring off campus and at private parties cannot give rise to Title IX liability.[48] KSU cites Yeasin v. University of Kansas, in which it argued in an amicus curiae brief “that Title IX does not require a school to sanction students for off-campus conduct.”[49] In Yeasin, the Kansas Court of Appeals held that the University of Kansas did not have the authority to expel a student under Title IX for sexual harassment that occurred online, off campus, and not within a University sponsored program or activity.[50] KSU focuses on a statement the court made that “[i]t seems obvious that the only environment the University can control is on campus or at University sponsored or supervised events.”[51]However, the Court made clear that it was not resolving “whether Title IX requires a recipient to Title IX funds to discipline off-campus conduct.”[52] To the extent KSU argues here for a general prohibition on Title IX liability for harassment that occurs off campus, such a bright-line rule is foreclosed by Rost.[53] Instead, the determination whether Title IX is implicated turns on whether the education institution “exercises substantial control over both the harasser and the context in which the known harassment occurs, ” and whether there is a “nexus between the out-of-school conduct and the school.”[54]

         KSU analogizes the allegations here to the Rost, Roe, Ostrander, C.R.K., and Samuelson cases, in which courts declined to impose Title IX liability for sexual harassment that occurred off school grounds. KSU further argues that Plaintiff has alleged no facts that would warrant a finding that it exercised substantial control over the harasser and the context in which the harassment occurred. KSU emphasizes there are no allegations that it owned or operated the fraternity house or bedroom in which the alleged sexual assault occurred, that it knew the party was occurring, or that it had any contemporaneous control over how the party was conducted. KSU further argues it cannot simply enter into fraternity houses to monitor activity, and while the Fourth Amendment permits leeway in entering into on-campus dorm rooms, the same leeway does not apply to private fraternity houses.[55] KSU argues that even if it had authority to discipline the alleged assailant after the assault, it did not have substantial control over the assailant or the context in which the assault occurred. According to KSU, “such a notion would make an institution vicariously liable for sexual harassment unless it remediated the effects of harassment.”[56] Finally, KSU asserts that it is “unreasonable and unrealistic to suggest that K-State can monitor, let alone regulate, unsanctioned activities that occur at private locations in the community.”[57]

         The Court finds unpersuasive KSU's arguments that this case is controlled by the outcomes in Rost, Roe, Ostrander, C.R.K., and Samuelson. The facts in those cases are not sufficiently analogous to command the same result in this case. In Rost, C.R.K., and Samuelson, the alleged assaults occurred off school grounds, in private settings, and not in connection with any school activity or organization.[58] Although the assault here occurred at a private fraternity house, the Court has detailed above the allegations that reflect KSU's substantial control over the fraternity and the assailant. These allegations demonstrate that KSU had more control over the context of the assault than the schools in Rost, C.R.K., and Samuelson had over the context of the harassment and assaults in those cases. Likewise, in Roe, the peer assault occurred at a private apartment, rather than at a fraternity house.[59] As explained above, the fraternity here is subject to oversight by the Office of Greek Affairs, rules promulgated by KSU, and potential discipline of the chapter and its members for conduct that takes place at the fraternity house. The same cannot be said for the private apartment at issue in Roe. Additionally, in Ostrander, the court found that the plaintiff had not offered sufficient evidence to establish that the university or the fraternity owned the private on-campus residence where the assault occurred, and thus Title IX was not implicated.[60] Here, by contrast, the alleged assault took place at a house owned by the fraternity, and Plaintiff's allegations reflect that KSU exercises substantial control over the fraternity. In sum, these cases simply do not inform the result here because the alleged peer assaults in those cases occurred in contexts that were not controlled by the funding recipients, unlike in this case.

         To be sure, KSU makes a valid argument that unlike in the dormitory context, the Fourth Amendment fully applies to private fraternity houses, and a university cannot simply enter a fraternity house on a whim.[61] Further, KSU's suggestion that a university has significantly more control over dormitories than it does off-campus fraternity houses is generally accurate and unremarkable. But rather than compelling a particular result in this case, the reference to dormitories simply helps set the outer bounds of Title IX liability. At one end, peer sexual assaults that occur at on-campus dormitories clearly implicate Title IX.[62] At the other end, peer sexual assaults that occur off-campus, in private settings, and within contexts that have little or no connection to the funding recipient do not trigger Title IX liability.[63] Peer sexual assaults that occur at off-campus fraternities that are subject to oversight, control, and disciplinary authority by a university appear to fall somewhere between these two bookends. Here, as explained above, the fraternity allegedly is a KSU student organization, is supervised by a faculty advisor, is overseen by KSU's Office of Greek Affairs, is subject to KSU rules specifically applicable to fraternity parties and events, and is subject to chapter investigations by the KSU IFC. Thus, the Court is convinced that KSU has substantial control over the alleged assailant and the context in which the alleged assault occurred.

         KSU's next argument-that because it did not have “contemporaneous control” over the alleged assailant and the fraternity house, it lacked substantial control over the alleged assailant and the context of the sexual assault-is similarly unavailing.[64] KSU cites Roe, Ostrander, and Samuelson as authority for the proposition that substantial control does not exist where a funding recipient's disciplinary authority is limited to responding post-assault. The Court, however, is not aware of any suggestion in these or other cases that the term “substantial control” equates to or necessitates “contemporaneous control.” The cases KSU presents appear to turn on findings that the funding recipients lacked any control over the contexts of the assaults in those cases, rather than findings that the funding recipients lacked contemporaneous control.[65] Here, although KSU may fairly argue that its agents or employees were not contemporaneously present at the scene of the alleged assaults, Plaintiff's allegations reflect that both the fraternity and the alleged assailant were subject to pre-assault oversight and post-assault disciplinary control by KSU.[66]

         Finally, Contrary to KSU's contention, the Court is not convinced that a finding that Plaintiff has plausibly alleged KSU had substantial control over the context and alleged perpetrators of the assaults in this case will require KSU to monitor, regulate, and remediate all sexual harassment that occurs “at private locations in the community.”[67] Rather, the Court simply finds that Plaintiff has presented plausible allegations in this case that KSU had substantial control over the fraternity (a KSU student organization) and the alleged assailant, thereby triggering a duty to adhere to the mandate of Title IX-that is, respond to Plaintiff's report of rape in a way that was not deliberately indifferent or “clearly unreasonable.”[68]

         2. Causation of Further Harassment

         KSU argues for dismissal because Plaintiff has failed to allege that KSU's deliberate indifference to her report of rape caused her to suffer further harassment. Plaintiff does not contest that she has not alleged further harassment, in the strictest sense, at the hands of the alleged assailant after her report of sexual assault.[69] Rather, she alleges that the continued presence of the alleged assailant on campus caused her fear, which ultimately caused a deprivation of her educational access in the form of missing classes, declining academic performance, depression, and self-destructive behaviors.[70] KSU does not argue that Plaintiff has failed to allege sexual discrimination that deprived her access to the educational benefits or opportunities provided by KSU.[71] Thus, the parties do not dispute that plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of her educational access but has not alleged further harassment following her report of sexual assault. The Court is therefore left with the purely legal question whether it is enough for a Title IX plaintiff to allege a deprivation of her educational access and that the funding recipient's deliberate indifference left her liable or vulnerable to further harassment, or whether she must also allege further harassment actually occurred after the funding recipient was on notice of the initial harassment.

         The foundation of KSU's argument begins with Davis, in which the Supreme Court discussed the scope of Title IX liability.[72] The Court explained:

The statute's plain language confines the scope of prohibited conduct based on the recipient's degree of control over the harasser and the environment in which the harassment occurs. If a funding recipient does not engage in harassment directly, it may not be liable for damages unless its deliberate indifference “subject[s]” its students to harassment. That is, the deliberate indifference must, at a minimum, “cause [students] to undergo” harassment or “make them liable or vulnerable” to it.[73]

         Since Davis, courts have repeatedly echoed this last statement-that the funding recipient's deliberate indifference must “ cause students to undergo” or make them “liable or vulnerable to” harassment.[74]

         KSU focuses on two Tenth Circuit cases, Escue v. Northern Oklahoma College and Rost, to advance its argument that a Title IX plaintiff must allege further harassment. In Escue, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the university on the plaintiff's Title IX claims in part because the court found that the university was not deliberately indifferent to the student's reports of inappropriate touching and sexual comments by a professor.[75] The court explained that the school's response to the report-which included removing the student from the harassing environment, questioning the student's peers and the professor about the charges, and preventing the professor from teaching any other classes after the semester ended-was not “clearly unreasonable in light of known circumstances.”[76] The court then made the following observation:

Significantly, we note that [the plaintiff] does not allege that further sexual harassment occurred as a result of NOC's deliberate indifference. The Supreme Court has stated that “the deliberate indifference must, at a minimum, cause students to undergo harassment or make them liable or vulnerable to it.” For instance, in Theno [v. Tonganoxie Unified School District Number 464], a student was subjected to years of harassment by his peers. Although the school responded to discrete incidents, it issued only warnings to the perpetrators and sometimes required them to undergo counseling. Despite these measures, the student was still harassed. The Theno court found that summary judgment was inappropriate because “a reasonable jury certainly could conclude that at some point during the four-year period of harassment the school district's standard and ineffective response to the known harassment became clearly unreasonable.”
[The plaintiff's] arguments do not present a similar situation. At no point does she allege that NOC's response to her allegations was ineffective such that she was further harassed. Although [the professor] attempted to contact her once the day that she reported her allegations to [the university president], he was unsuccessful and this incident did not lead to sexual harassment. Summary judgment on these facts is therefore appropriate, as [the plaintiff] has not shown that NOC's response was clearly unreasonable nor has she shown that it led to further sexual harassment.[77]

         In Rost, the court affirmed the district court's ruling that the student had not met her burden at summary judgment to present evidence that the school district acted with deliberate indifference to her reports of sexual harassment.[78] The court emphasized the undisputed facts that after the student reported the sexual harassment, the school immediately contacted its school resource officer, who questioned the student about the harassment, and the principal had “approximately fifty conversations” with the officer regarding the investigation and received the officer's report.[79] Citing Escue, the court then observed that the plaintiff did “not contend that further sexual harassment occurred as a result of the district's deliberate indifference after [the student]'s disclosure in 2003.”[80] The Court acknowledged that several circuits have “rejected a strict causation analysis which would absolve a district of Title IX liability if no discrimination occurs after a school district receives notice of discrimination.”[81]

         The court further noted that the Eleventh Circuit, in Williams v. Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, held that Title IX discrimination can occur where a university fails to timely respond or take precautions to prevent further attacks.[82] The court found that, unlike in Williams, the school district's response did not “cause [the student] to undergo harassment or make her liable or vulnerable to it, ” and in fact “the district took steps to prevent further harassment of [the student].”[83] Ultimately, the court found the record reflected that the district did not act with deliberate indifference.[84] But the court explained in dicta that if the student, whose mother had removed her entirely from the school district, “had expressed interest in returning to the school and school officials had not provided a safe educational environment, then she would likely have a Title IX claim. But that is not this case.”[85]

         KSU interprets Escue and Rost as creating a requirement under Davis that a Title IX claimant undergo further harassment after an initial report of harassment. For several reasons, the Court finds this interpretation unpersuasive. First, the courts in Escue and Rost discussed the absence of further harassment in the context of analyzing the deliberate indifference element, rather than analyzing causation of further harassment as a stand-alone element.[86] The courts explained the absence of further harassment to emphasize the ...


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