Blog : Kansas

Title IX Precedent Set in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Kansas State University’s petitions to rehear its motion to dismiss our lawsuit that claims KSU officials failed to investigate our clients’ sexual assaults.

School Violence Law and our clients have now created binding 10th Circuit precedent regarding #TitleIX.

#SAAM #IAsk ✊ 

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Recent opinion in two campus assault cases will have a far-reaching effect on Title IX claims

School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group attorney Jon Fazzola represents Tessa Farmer and Sara Weckhorst in their claims against KSU – stating that the university took no further action after their assaults – thus violating their rights under #titleix.

The university filed a motion to dismiss the case, but Honorable David M. Ebel reaffirmed a 1999 SCOTUS decision that a person does not have to be raped again for the university to be in violation of Title IX…

Within days of this decision, it was used to argue a similar Michigan State University case in which 4 students claimed their Title IX rights were violated… #saam #iask End Rape on Campus RAINN NO MORE National Sexual Violence Resource Center Women’s Resource Center for the Grand Traverse Area Pave It’s On Us

Read the Full Article Here.

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Kansas State University Can’t Dodge Our Title IX Lawsuit

Image result for kansas state title ix lawsuitA lawsuit filed against Kansas State University (KSU) by two former students who were sexually assaulted was given clearance to proceed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which held that “Title IX does not require a subsequent sexual assault before a plaintiff can sue.”  This victory will help these women and countless women across the country use Title IX to achieve justice and compel schools to protect survivors.

The two women who brought the suit, Tessa Farmer and Sara Weckhorst, were each brutally raped by KSU students at off-campus fraternity houses.  Both reported the rapes to KSU and identified the perpetrators, one of whom is now in prison.  KSU refused to investigate or take any action against the perpetrators, allowing them to remain on campus, and justified its indifference on the basis that the rapes occurred off-campus.  Ms. Farmer and Ms. Weckhorst sued KSU for violating Title IX, alleging that KSU’s deliberate indifference made them vulnerable to further sexual harassment by the assailants.  KSU disagreed, suggesting that their fear of encountering the assailants on campus had no “basis in reality.”  The Tenth Circuit disagreed, ruling:

Plaintiffs’ allegations are quite specific and reasonable under the circumstances.  Plaintiffs allege more than a general fear of running into their assailants.  They allege that their fears have forced them to take very specific actions that deprived them of educational opportunities offered to other students.  In addition, they have alleged a pervasive atmosphere of fear at KSU of sexual assault caused by KSU’s inadequate action in these cases.  A Title IX plaintiff’s alleged fear of encountering her attacker must be objectively reasonable, but under the horrific circumstances alleged here Plaintiffs have adequately alleged that KSU’s deliberate indifference to their rape reports reasonably deprived them of educational opportunities available to other students at KSU.

“It feels so empowering to know that what Sara and I went through and the work we’re doing could potentially help people all over the country,” said Tessa Farmer.  “It’s just amazing how you can take a terrible situation and turn it into such a positive movement for change.”

Ms. Farmer and Ms. Weckhorst are represented by Jonathon Fazzola, an attorney with The Fierberg National Law Group.

About Jonathon Fazzola & The Fierberg National Law Group

Attorney Jonathon Fazzola and The Fierberg National Law Group represent victims of violence and harassment, including sexual abuse and assault, to make certain their rights are protected, and ensuring perpetrators and institutions that fail to comply with their obligations to protect victims are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Read the Opinion Here.

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Sigma Alpha Epsilon: Years of Misconduct and Hazing

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Alcohol-related deaths at Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) chapters across the country have been going on for years. 

Incidents include, but unfortunately, not limited to:

  • The 2006 alleged alcohol-related hazing death of University of Texas freshman & SAE pledge, Tyler Cross, who fell to his death from the fifth-floor balcony of his off-campus dorm. Allegedly, in the days before Tyler’s death, he was subjected to hazing rituals that included beatings, forced consumption of alcohol and sleep deprivation.
  • The 2008 alcohol poisoning death of Cal Poly freshman and pledge, Carson Starkey, who died only hours after attending a “brown bag” event. Allegedly, when Carson passed out, fraternity members drove him to the hospital but turned around for fear of being arrested. Brothers then placed Carson on a mattress at the house, where he died. Police officials said that the death was the result of the crime of hazing while Carson was being initiated into Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Attorney Douglas Fierberg was honored to represent The Starkeys not only in their civil lawsuit but also in their pursuit to bring attention to the dangers of hazing and prevent other families from suffering as they did.
  • The 2009 alcohol poisoning death of University of Kansas freshman Jason Wren, who was found dead in his bed at the SAE house after a night of alleged binge drinking. Jason had only been with the fraternity for one week.
  • The 2011 hazing death of Cornell University student, George Desdunes, who was allegedly kidnapped and bound at his wrists and ankles with zip ties by SAE pledges as part of a longstanding fraternity ritual and compelled to consume alcohol until he lost consciousness. Instead of medical treatment,  George was taken to the fraternity house and placed on a couch where he was left to die. He was found later that morning by Cornell personnel, with zip ties still around his wrists and ankles. Attorney Douglas Fierberg was honored to represent George’s Mother, Marie Lourdes André, both in her civil lawsuit and in her efforts to obtain justice for George’s death by changing the way Cornell University handles claims of hazing. 

This conduct should not, and will not, be tolerated.

School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group seek justice for victims of fraternity hazing and wrongful death by holding fraternities, fraternity chapters, fraternity members and schools accountable for their actions.  Our work continues, on behalf and in honor of the first family we represented (circa 1993) and for every one thereafter. We know this to be true.

 

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Title IX Attorney On Good Morning America To Discuss K-State Lawsuits

Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer, alongside their Title IX attorney, Cari Simon of The Fierberg National Law Group, break their silence about K-State lawsuits in an interview with ABC News.

As School Violence Law touched on last week, attorney Cari Simon brought suit against Kansas State University on behalf of two women, claiming the school ignored their reports of being sexually assaulted.

The women filed separate federal suits against Kansas State University after university officials refused to investigate their reports of rape by fellow students because the incidents had occurred at off-campus fraternity houses.

Sara Weckhorst and Tessa Farmer told ABC’s Good Morning America in an interview Monday morning that they went public with their names because they feel they’ve done nothing wrong.

“If this is what we have to do to make sure that this doesn’t happen to a single, one more person, if this is what it takes — then that is what we have to do. It was terrifying, I am always fearful they will come back. Fear is the main thing…. The only thing I hope to gain from this is that nobody has to have the same experience as us.” Weckhorst said of the assaults. “I felt worthless and I didn’t know how to do relieve that pain, there was no closure for it,” adds Farmer.

Both women reported the sexual assaults to police and went to hospitals where rape kits were taken. Farmer and Weckhorst also reported their assaults to two different faculty members.

“I went to the offices and they gave me a lot of back and forth, and I answered a lot of questions and they told me they couldn’t investigate cause it was off campus,” Farmer said.

Both lawsuits suits cite that “under Title IX, if a student files a complaint with the school, regardless of where the conduct occurred, the school must process the complaint in accordance with its established procedures.”

“What Kansas State seems to be ignoring is that the victims of sexual violence keep feeling the effects of the assault long after the sexual assault,” – Cari Simon

ABC News reports that the president of the student body has released a public statement in support of the two students saying they respect the bravery of the women in stepping forward and that “a change needs to be made in order for all K-State students to feel taken care of and supported in all aspects concerning campus safety.”

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Kansas State University Will Not Investigate Rapes At Its Fraternities

Attorney Cari Simon of The Fierberg National Law Group files Title IX lawsuits Against Kansas State University on behalf of two sexual assault victims.

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Sara Weckhorst, left, and Tessa Farmer, juniors at Kansas State University, have filed lawsuits claiming the the university mishandled their accusations of rape.

The official press release reads as follows:

Kansas State University Will Not Investigate Rapes at its Fraternities

Two sexual assault victims file Title IX lawsuits as University takes no action

MANHATTAN, KANSAS – Two sexual assault victims filed federal lawsuits today alleging Kansas State University (“K-State”) violated their rights under Title IX by failing to investigate their reports of rape by K-State students. Despite the fact the assailants and victims are all students at K-State and the assaults happened at events hosted by University-recognized fraternities and at fraternity houses, K-State has refused to investigate because the rapes happened “off campus.”

As universities across the country grapple with the epidemic of sexual assault on campus and how best to respond to guarantee equal and safe access to education for all students, K-State has taken an unlawful approach:  “deliberate indifference,” according to the complaints.  The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Cari Simon of The Fierberg National Law Group, bring action to vindicate their statutory rights to equal educational opportunities, rights which K-State violated and will continue to violate absent relief from federal court.

“Kansas State’s interpretation of its sexual assault policy deliberately turns its back on one of the most dangerous aspects of its campus life, conveniently writing fraternity rape out of its responsibility,” said attorney Cari Simon of The Fierberg National Law Group who represents the two victims. According to the complaints, despite months of continued pleading from the victims and their families to investigate the rapes and remove the student-assailants from campus, the victims have been left to languish on campus in fear and under the constant risk of encountering the unpunished and perhaps emboldened assailants.

Sara, one of the plaintiffs, was raped by two K-State students during a fraternity event and again later at the fraternity house. Sara reported the assaults immediately. Over a dozen students witnessed the first assault, some taking photographs and shared on social media.  Tessa, the second plaintiff, was raped by an unknown K-State student at a K-State fraternity house, and she also reported the assault immediately. K-State refused to investigate either of the reports of rape because the assaults occurred off campus.

K-State is under federal Title IX investigation by the United States Department of Education because of its failed response the rapes of these two young women, and likely other fraternity rape victims.

“K-State is sending the message it will not hold rapists accountable as long as they lure their victims off campus. Until this practice is changed, the University is emboldening would-be rapists. Sara and Tessa are filing these lawsuits because they do not want this to happen to anyone else.” Ms. Simon said.

“K-State needs to put its students’ safety first,” said Dustin Van Dyk, co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “K-State has knowledge of incidents of sexual assault at its fraternities far beyond those of Sara and Tessa, yet it does not warn victims of those dangers or take action when they report.”

About Cari Simon & The Fierberg National Law Group:

The Fierberg National Law Group represents victims of sexual violence throughout the entire college or high school disciplinary process and judicial hearings, and civil litigation ensuring that their Title IX rights are protected and that perpetrators are held responsible to the fullest extent of the law.  The national Title IX movement expertise of Cari Simon paired with the experience of Doug Fierberg in the field of school and fraternity violence make the duo uniquely effective advocates for people who have suffered rape or sexual assault in schools, universities, fraternities, and sororities.

To read coverage of the ongoing suit as reported by The New York Times click here.
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Sexual Violence in Kansas

School Violence Law represented two college students who were raped at fraternity houses.  The university refused to bring disciplinary charges against the perpetrators for the sexual violence in Kansas and engaged in other alleged violations of law and Title IX.   The case is filed in the United States Court for the District of Kansas.  The United States entered its appearance on behalf of our clients.  The University’s motion to dismiss our clients’ Title IX claims was denied.

 

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