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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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“Experts call such victim-blaming ‘tortured rationalizations.'”

See the source imageA California father believes his 18-year-old son’s alcohol-related death was the result of a fraternity hazing ritual. The Orange County coroner’s office said Monday, Noah Domingo died from accidental alcohol poisoning.

Noah’s blood alcohol level was more than four times the legal limit, reports CBS News’ Jamie Yuccas. The UC Irvine freshman was found unresponsive after a party in January. His father said Noah was taking part in a dangerous and longstanding fraternity ritual. His death has already prompted Sigma Alpha Epsilon to close its chapter at UC Irvine indefinitely.

In a statement to CBS News, Dale Domingo said, “We have discovered the horrifying truth about fraternity hazing.” He contends the fraternity was conducting its “big brother night” ritual where “Noah was compelled to guzzle a so-called ‘family drink’ to become part of his big brother’s family.” He said, “It is why fraternities openly refer to this type of ritual as being one of the ‘deadly nights.'”

Authorities said Domingo died at about 3:30 in the morning, but the initial 911 call was some six hours later. The person who called 911 told the operator “he just drank, he just drank too much.”

Disputing the account in the 911 call, Noah’s father said his son did not just drink too much. He said experts call such victim-blaming “tortured rationalizations.”

Authorities are still investigating the circumstances leading to Domingo’s death and have not confirmed that hazing played a role.
In a statement, the university offered its “deepest sympathies to the Domingo family” and said “his death brings an urgent focus on alcohol and substance abuse.”

The focus on fraternity hazing has intensified in recent years with the deaths of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza and Florida State University fraternity member Andrew Coffey.

Just like other families impacted by college drinking deaths, Noah’s father said he will honor his son by doing everything he can to end hazing by fraternities and their members.

CBS News reached out to Sigma Alpha Epsilon regarding the confirmation of Domingo’s cause of death, but have not heard back.

©  2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. See the Full Report Here.

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Blind Eye Movement: Speaking Out About Sexual Abuse

Many Voices. One Message. Speaking Out About Sexual Abuse.

Join us March 2nd, 2019 from 11am to 1pm: The Fierberg National Law Group and School Violence Law is sponsoring an event where survivors of sexual abuse share their stories & local experts provide info on support, resources and legal rights for survivors and their families. #metoo #churchtoo #blindeyemovement#recognizepreventrecover #manyvoicesonemessage #victimrights #itsonus #nnedv #nsvrc #rainn

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Statement Regarding the Allegations Against Kingsley Middle School Principal, Karl Hartman

Kingsley Middle School Principal Accused of Sex Crimes

Image result for kingsley michigan principalKingsley, MI – We are deeply saddened to hear of the allegations of sexual victimization of students at Kingsley Area Schools. As attorneys at The Fierberg National Law Group, we represent survivors of school sex abuse in Michigan and across the country, helping them seek justice and healing.  We understand the trauma and harm young victims and their families suffer, and the betrayal felt when those who stand in positions of authority over children violate the trust that parents, students, and the community place in them.  Although we know from our work on behalf of victims around the country that sexual assault and abuse in schools is all too common, we are still dismayed to learn about this alleged misconduct in our community.  Our heart goes out to these young men and their loved ones.

About The Fierberg National Law Group

The Fierberg National Law Group, with offices located in Traverse City, Michigan, Colorado, and the District of Columbia, represent victims of violence and harassment, including sexual abuse and assault, to make certain their rights are protected, achieving justice for victims and their families, and ensuring perpetrators and institutions that fail to comply with their obligations to protect children are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

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Cal Poly Sigma Pi Chapter Suspended Over Hazing Accusations

Last year’s tragic death of Collin Wiant, a pledge at the Sigma Pi fraternity at Ohio University, should have opened up Sigma Pi’s eyes to change its policies and practices……yet their ongoing incidents and misconduct continue across the U.S. 

The Sigma Pi fraternity has been suspended until June 15, 2019 and placed on social probation until Spring 2020 for violation of health and safety code, violation of alcohol use, violations of law, and violation of hazing and conspiracy to haze. The suspension is effective immediately, as of Monday, Jan. 14, according to Cal Poly Fraternity & Sorority Life.

Sigma Pi was investigated after the university received reports that the fraternity was involved in hazing recruits in Fall 2018. The hazing included humiliation of pledges, causing mental and emotional distress, according to University Spokesperson Matt Lazier. It is unknown how many reports of hazing the university received.

The fraternity was also found in violation of providing alcohol to pledges and minors during the recruitment and pledging process.

The university asked the Sigma Pi national chapter to review the chapter’s membership and the chapter’s executive board is required to complete an educational training, according to Lazier.

The fraternity received a notice of suspension Monday and was banned from Winter 2019 rush events, starting today.

The chapter has not commented on the sanctions at this time. Mustang News has reached out to the Cal Poly Interfraternity Council and Sigma Pi national headquarters, but have not received a response from either.

Sigma Pi is known on campus for their annual Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Week and for notable alumni, such as iCracked Founder AJ Forsythe. The chapter has 91 brothers as of 2018, according to their website.

This is the second fraternity found in violation of hazing this school year.

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What is the future of fraternities on college campuses?

By: James Patterson | Education Dive | November 13, 2018

After four student deaths in 2017 and pressure from parents, colleges are cracking down — but just how far they’ll go is still to be determined.

E. Gordon Gee, the professorial president of West Virginia University who favors bow ties and once described himself as “quirky as hell,” pauses for a moment and sighs when asked whether he thinks it’s possible to improve the fractured relationship between fraternities and colleges across the country.

Although he may seem like their antithesis, and his response to their misbehavior on his campus has been by most accounts no-nonsense, he says he’s optimistic.

“They are going to continue to play a role, and it could be a positive one. So rather than ignore them and put them aside, let’s find a way to make them cheerful, friendly and engaged members of the university community,” says Gee, who recently banned five fraternities for 10 or more years after they refused to obey new rules he implemented following reports of hazing and drug and alcohol abuse.

He’s not the only college leader of late to crack down on fraternities for misconduct. This fall, the University of Iowa and Monmouth Universitysuspended theirs, and other institutions such as the University of NebraskaNorthwestern University, the University of Arizona and the University of Connecticut have taken similar actions in recent years.

Disparate views about the future of fraternities have included suggestions they be disbanded or even unbridled and self-governed. Yet Gee and others seem adamant that fraternities have a place in higher education, though they agree a solution to the present issues is needed now. The most recent catalyst: four student deaths as a result of hazing activity in 2017 alone. The spate followed a near half-century period during which at least one hazing death was recorded per year, according to Franklin College Professor Hank Nuwer, who has gained attention for his meticulous tracking of incidents.

College leaders and others say those solutions include stricter limits for fraternities around pledging and alcohol use, higher levels of direct supervision, more stringent state laws and better tactics for getting fraternities to self-police, the latter led more forcefully by their national and campus organizations.

But fraternities’ long histories at their universities and deep ties within alumni networks makes cracking down a major challenge.

A SHIFTING TIDE

The problem, says Nicholas Syrett, a professor at the University of Kansas and author of “The Company He Keeps: A History of White College Fraternities,” stems from the deeply rooted traditions intrinsic to fraternities and the heavy doses of male bonding that go along with them.

“Many young men arrive on campus very much hoping that their college experience will involve excessive drinking at fraternity parties. They want what they think of as the classic fraternity experience, complete with parties, pledging and hazing,” Syrett says. “The men who most fit that ideal even before getting to college join fraternities and they encourage one another to continue the tradition. It’s a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Under that broader umbrella, loose-knit “rogue” groups that “act with impunity” challenge colleges and universities that often feel they don’t have sufficient tools to monitor or oversee them, says Paul Zingg, former president of California State University, Chico, where the hazing death of 21-year-old Matthew Carrington in 2005 prompted the formation of the nonprofit Anti-Hazing Awareness (AHA!) Movement, founded by Carrington’s mother Debbie Smith.

“Greek misbehavior takes place on most campuses,” Zingg says. Efforts such as that by AHA!, which Zingg supports, hope to change that. Its work resulted in the passage of Matt’s Law in California, which allows for felony prosecutions and broader law enforcement powers for hazing.      

Smith isn’t the only parent pushing back, and that pressure is spurring colleges and universities to step up. Following Penn State University sophomore Timothy Piazza’s death in 2017 as a result of injuries sustained during a night of drinking at a fraternity event, the university became a center of activity related to fraternity safety.

Piazza’s parents were active in pushing for greater oversight of fraternities, and Penn State President Eric Barron clamped down the groups on his campus and began collaborating with the presidents of other universities where hazing-related deaths had occurred recently to find solutions.

Their efforts were also critical to recently passed legislation in Pennsylvania, which strengthens penalties for hazing and makes it a felony if it results in serious injury or death. Pennsylvania is the 12th state with such a law on its books. The bill was promoted by an energetic, newly formed coalition of affected parents and fraternities and anti-hazing groups, which will soon release a set of proposed state laws they intend to advance nationwide. As with Matt’s Law, the one in Pennsylvania is named after Piazza.

RAISING ACCOUNTABILITY ON CAMPUS

In addition to changing the law, affected colleges, families and other groups are looking within the institution. Some colleges have established firm rules about alcohol consumption on campus, have moved troublesome freshman pledge activities to the spring or eliminated them entirely, and more quickly suspend offending fraternities, says John Hechinger, a senior editor at Bloomberg News and author of the book “True Gentlemen: The Broken Pledge of America’s Fraternities,” which looks at fraternity culture and their future on campuses. Others require members meet certain academic performance or community service requirements.

“Information travels faster, the events are better documented and it’s harder for them to be swept under the rug,” Hechinger says. “Colleges have had to respond.”

This past April, Barron co-led a meeting of more than 30 college officials to examine challenges, complications and ways to collaborate on new approaches. One of those approaches is a national scorecard, which Penn State developed for its campus to keep track of outcomes for fraternities such as GPA, community service hours and violations pertaining to hazing, alcohol or sexual assault.

“We now have inserted ourselves into the lives of these students in ways never done at Penn State, and rarely, if ever, done in any large public university,” says Damon Sims, the university’s vice president for student affairs. He says Penn State staff is now on-hand at social activities and handles the discipline of members who violate behavior policies.

“They are going to continue to play a role, and it could be a positive one. So rather than ignore them and put them aside, let’s find a way to make them cheerful, friendly and engaged members of the university community.” – E. Gordon Gee, President, West Virginia University

Scorecards or publication of fraternity records on alcohol-related hospitalizations could be powerful tools for colleges, Hechinger says, along with potentially “taxing” participants at campus events where alcohol is served or requiring parents to buy large liability insurance policies so they have a financial incentive to reduce risky behavior.

Douglas Fierberg, an attorney representing families in fraternity misconduct cases, says to control behavior universities must be more transparent about fraternity problems. He says even heralded disclosure efforts like Penn State’s are too vague and that universities too often protect the groups. He also says the common chapter self-management model should be replaced with university oversight, pledging should be banned and alcohol consumption should be prohibited without proper adult supervision.

“Fraternities are knowingly isolated from meaningful adult management and supervision and are therefore unreasonably dangerous,” he says.

IS BETTER OVERSIGHT POSSIBLE?

College leaders have successful lessons from the past to call upon. Hechinger notes in his book that soon after former University of Rhode Island President David Carothers was hired in 1991 he found the university had gained an unwanted reputation for its social life. Kegs were seen at commencement, the institution’s initials URI became synonymous with “you are high,” and many students were regularly hospitalized for alcohol poisoning.

Carothers took what Hechinger says proved to be effective action: banning alcohol from all university-sponsored social events on campus, suspending students for two semesters if they violated the policy and kicking out repeatedly offending fraternities — even bulldozing some houses or taking them over as administrative buildings. The action, Hechinger wrote, “all but eliminated the kind of tragic alcohol-related deaths that had been a regular occurrence,” improved behavior generally and drew more successful students to the university.

It also didn’t result in the backlash that Carothers expected and many administrators fear when they restrict fraternities, which are quick and aggressive in their own defense and often have powerful support.

“Colleges have shown a lot more backbone and shut down chapters, and parents have put pressure on colleges and states to do something, but without powerful and sustained pressure, some fraternities aren’t likely to change,” says Hechinger. He and others note that fraternity members are often held up as leaders on campus, their presence is a recruiting tool and they have strong connections to important donors and community leaders.

Zingg and others stress that fraternities’ leadership at the chapter and national levels should be held more accountable for members’ behavior and its consequences.

“Colleges have shown a lot more backbone and shut down chapters, and parents have put pressure on colleges and states to do something, but without powerful and sustained pressure, some fraternities aren’t likely to change.” – John Hechinger, Journalist and Author

Some have stepped up, establishing firm standards for their groups about consent, alcohol abuse and hazing. For example, the 66-member North-American Interfraternity Conference joined the coalition that is seeking tighter state laws on hazing and has banned hard liquor at the facilities of its participating fraternities beginning next fall. The move affects more than 6,100 chapters on 800 college campuses.

Hechinger’s book tracks several leaders who have against the odds sought to clean up their chapters. Gee says strong leaders and thoughtful university student affairs professionals were critical when he was at chancellor at Vanderbilt University from 2000 to 2007, where 35% of men were in fraternities in 2010 and where, he said, there was more cooperation between the university and Greek organizations.

Selecting the right people in those positions and training them on how to avoid problems is key, he says, particularly fraternity leaders. A clear institutional policy is critical, fraternities must be informed about it and have reasonable say in its formation, and the policy must be enforced.

“They have to step up and take responsibility for the behavior of their members, and they will,” Gee says. “They and their members have to be held accountable if they don’t.”

Correction: This article has been updated to correct that Timothy Piazza was a sophomore at Penn State.

View Article Here

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National Hazing Prevention Week

September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM).

NCSAM received the unanimous support of congress in 2008. Each September, the Clery Center partners with colleges, universities, and other organizations to offer campus safety resources, programming, and ideas.

Although headlines capture the best- and worst- of the field, there’s one thing the Clery Center knows to be true: people don’t function well in fear; individuals make the best decisions when they are informed, offered support, and are confident in their knowledge and skills.

Keeping this in mind, the Clery Center is continuing its practice of dedicating National Campus Safety Awareness month to providing professional development resources and opportunities that can help practitioners move forward on their own campuses.

In accordance with National Hazing Prevention Week, the Clery Center is featuring resources (below) for general audiences (students, parents, etc.) who wish to understand and communicate effectively about hazing, and learn strategies for bystander intervention.

Show the Clery Center what you’re doing for #NCSAM2016 and let’s continue #movingforwardtogether!

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School Violence Law Represents Georgia High School Student Suspended After Reporting Her Sexual Assault

Title IX Complaint filed due to school district’s gross mishandling of sexual assault on a freshman student.gwinnett county public schools, slate, sexual assault, high school sexual assault

The assault our client endured, and the school administration’s reaction thereafter, is chronicled by Slate contributor Nora Caplan-Bricker, in a piece entitled, My School Punished Me.”

In the gripping article (below) Caplan-Bricker discusses the complaint itself while simultaneously casting a spotlight on the larger issue of sexual assault and Title IX mismanagement occurring all too frequently in K-12 schools across the nation.

Peachtree Ridge High School is a low-slung concrete building in Suwanee, Georgia, an affluent suburb north of Atlanta. School had just gotten out on Feb. 4, 2015, and a 16-year-old sophomore was waiting just inside the main entrance for her mother to pick her up, she says, when a male classmate approached and said he wanted to show her some video equipment. She says that she followed him into the school’s newsroom, just down the hall, where he allegedly coerced her into performing oral sex.

The next morning, the female student did something unusual for a sexual assault victim: She went straight to her first-period teacher and, in tears, reported the incident. (Since both parties are minors whose names have never appeared in the press, Slate is protecting their privacy and will refer to the alleged victim by her initials, T.M.) What followed was at least as disturbing as the event she detailed, according to a legal complaint that T.M.’s family submitted to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The Peachtree Ridge resource officer who first questioned T.M. set the tenor of the school’s investigation when he asked her to describe what she was wearing at the time of the assault, according to the complaint, which the family’s lawyers provided to Slate. The complaint says the officer also requested that she explain why she didn’t fight off her assailant: “Why didn’t you bite his penis and squeeze his balls?” he allegedly asked. (The resource officer did not respond to a request for comment, nor did other school administrators named in the complaint, or the two teachers to whom T.M. originally reported the incident.)

The complaint states that within days, T.M. and her parents were informed that she would be suspended, as would the boy, until the school could conduct a joint disciplinary hearing. There, she and the alleged perpetrator, or their legal representatives, would cross-examine each other. If T.M. couldn’t prove that what she’d experienced was assault, she would be disciplined along with the boy for engaging in sexual activity on school grounds, a violation of Peachtree’s rules.

“We begged and pleaded with the superintendent to hold the hearing for each one separately, so that it would be less traumatizing,” T.M.’s father told me. “We even considered not having her attend at all.” But not showing up would have resulted in an automatic finding of guilt. They weighed “the moral thing of what’s right—is it right to let that boy get away with it? Is it right to not try to hold the school accountable?” T.M.’s father says. “In the end, we decided, and [T.M.] decided, that she wanted to try to stand up for herself. Of course, that did no good whatsoever.”

“I really wish my school would have helped me instead of looking out for itself,” T.M. wrote to me in a statement. “The school took advantage of me, and that wasn’t fair. … The school should have pulled my attacker out of school and put him somewhere else, far away from me.”

Read More

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Fierberg Comments on DA’s Decision to Drop Two High-Profile Campus Rape Cases

Fulton County District Attorney will not bring charges against the assailants involved in campus rape cases at Morehouse College and Georgia Tech.

The three Morehouse basketball players accused of sexually assaulting a Spelman College student in March 2013 were arrested in April 2013 on various assault and rape charges, released on bond, and suspended from Morehouse while Howard’s office investigated. In the second case, a Georgia Tech student accused of raping an Agnes Scott College Student at his fraternity house in January 2014, was expelled from the university.

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Howard (pictured above) will not bring charges in two high-profile campus rape cases. Kent D. Johnson/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia Tech case garnered national attention, in part, because the fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, drew public scrutiny after an email surfaced from one member instructing others how to lure “rapebait” by plying female guests with alcohol.

When the first victim came forward with her allegations of rape after drinking alcohol provided by Phi Kappa Tau members at their fraternity house, another Agnes Scott student followed suit, telling Georgia Tech police the student had raped her in 2012 at an event held at the fraternity house. While the second woman did not wish to pursue criminal charges against the student, both women sued the fraternity, saying it “promoted a rampant culture of rape and misogyny.”

Attorney Douglas Fierberg represented both women in the civil case against the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity that settled about a year ago for an undisclosed sum. Fierberg says Howard’s delay was unwarranted.

“We were able to bring a (civil) case forward, prove what needed to be proven and reach a resolution long before the state decided to move or not,” Fierberg said.

The long delay of Paul Howard’s decision – over two years – prompted complaints that both the accused and the victims were left in limbo.

“No prosecution makes no sense,” said Fierberg.

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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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