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Student suspended for sexual misconduct claims discrimination

In June, a male student of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) filed suit against the school after he was suspended for alleged sexual misconduct. The unnamed student, identified in the complaint as “John Doe,” claims the school’s disciplinary process “was directly and indirectly designed to discriminate against male students on the basis of their sex.”

RPI reportedly overhauled its processes for dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct following criticism that the school was too lenient towards its mostly male student body. However, according to John Doe’s complaint, the new policies disproportionately impact male students and deprive them of due process.

RPI suspends John Doe for violating school policies

“John Doe” was accused of groping, choking, and kissing a female student without her consent in September 2018. In May of this year, an RPI disciplinary hearing found he had violated the school’s sexual misconduct policy and suspended him – he was instructed not to return to campus until 2020.

The student filed suit in New York’s northern federal district in June, alleging that RPI discriminated against him by denying his appeal of the suspension and that the school’s policies for investigating sexual misconduct claims discriminate against male students.

And this John Doe is not alone. Other schools have faced or are currently facing lawsuits from male students who claim they cannot mount an adequate defense against allegations of sexual misconduct in disciplinary hearings. Many of these claims focus on Title IX, the federal law that guards against sex discrimination in educational settings.

The protections of Title IX

Many associate Title IX with the creation of women’s sports teams at colleges and universities across the country in the 1970s. However, the law is much broader than that. A part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, Title IX states:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

John Doe’s case against RPI claims that allegations of sexual misconduct increased by 400% between 2015 and 2018, with most accusing male students. If true, the increase might be due to the rise of the #MeToo movement, in addition to efforts by colleges and universities across the country to take sexual assault allegations more seriously. 

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