Education

Iowa State settles sexual assault lawsuit

Ex-student wins $47,500 settlement after court ruling

Two students sit on the grass in front of Curtiss Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Two students sit on the grass in front of Curtiss Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Iowa State University has agreed to pay $47,500 to a former student and her attorneys to settle a lawsuit accusing the institution of, among other things, “deliberate indifference to the history and frequency of sexual assaults in the Greek community.”

Taylor Niesen, who enrolled at Iowa State in 2014 and dropped out after the 2015 fall semester, sued the school last summer after reporting being sexually assaulted at a Greek house by a fraternity member in January 2015.

The Gazette doesn’t typically name victims of sexual assault, except when they identify themselves in a public medium.

In her lawsuit, Niesen pointed to ongoing reports of sexual assault within the Greek community and argued the university and broader system “did not take adequate preventative measures to protect students from sexual assault in the Greek community.”

A judge in November ruled to allow the lawsuit to proceed on limited grounds but not on the “vague” accusation the institution ignored system problems in the Greek community. Rather, the lawsuit proceeded on allegations the university did nothing to stop retaliation within the Greek community against Niesen for reporting.

“The complaint adequately pleads the university’s knowledge of the retaliation, inaction which could amount to deliberate indifference, and that the retaliation was severe, pervasive and offensive enough to have denied Ms. Niesen equal access to institutional resources and opportunities,” Judge Ross A. Walters ruled.

The May 1 settlement made public this week orders a payment of $15,000 to Niesen and $32,500 in attorneys fees and costs to Newkirk Zwagerman PLC. It stipulates the deal does not qualify as an admission of wrongdoing.

The lawsuit is among several that have been filed against Iowa State alleging sexual assault and Title IX violations. The U.S. Office of Civil Rights has three open Title IX investigations involving Iowa State, including two related to sexual assault allegations.

The State Appeal Board approved the settlement Monday by a 3-0 vote.

Confinement settled

The State Appeal Board also agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a “conditions of confinement” claim brought by JaQuan Bradford and his mother against the Iowa Juvenile Home and the state Department of Human Services alleging Bradford was held in seclusion in violation of his constitutional rights.

In agreeing to settle the claim, the state did not admit any violation of the Constitution or any law and does not admit negligence or wrongdoing, according to state records.

Also, the settlement cannot be used as evidence of liability in any other civil or criminal proceeding.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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