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Education

Iowa State agrees to pay former Title IX coordinator $125,000

Settlement lets both sides 'move forward in a more positive way'

Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Iowa State University has reached a settlement with its former Title IX coordinator and equal opportunity director who sued the school last fall asserting widespread Title IX violations.

The State Board of Appeals on Monday unanimously agreed to pay $125,000 to settle the case with Robinette Kelley — employed at Iowa State between 2013 and 2015. The payments will be split $73,723 to Kelley and $51,277 to her attorneys, according to state records.

Kelley, according to the lawsuit filed in October 2017, accused Iowa State of failing to provide her with the necessary authority and support to do her job. Specifically, she cited a 2015 federal compliance review related to 2014 allegations from an ISU sex assault victim who asked the university to move an accused perpetrator from a nearby residence hall.

According to Kelley’s lawsuit, she found an assault occurred in that case but received pushback from administrators and campus police. The dean did not move the accused perpetrator from the residence hall, and Kelley complained about Iowa State’s “decision to provide the perpetrator-respondent with leniency, deference, and more rights, benefits, and access to educational opportunities than the female victim.”

In a statement provided to The Gazette on Monday, ISU spokesman John McCarroll confirmed the State Appeal Board approved a settlement that resolves litigation filed by Kelley at both the state and federal level.

“In the settlement papers, the parties confirm that the settlement does not indicate any wrong doing by either party,” according to McCarroll’s statement. “The university specifically denies that it discriminated or retaliated against Ms. Kelley in any way. The settlement allows both the university and Ms. Kelley to move forward in a more positive way while avoiding the significant costs associated with further litigation.”

Hours before Kelley in October filed her lawsuit in Polk County District Court, a former ISU student filed a lawsuit against her, alleging Kelley did not properly investigate the student’s case and provide equal protection.

That case still is winding through court, with a trial date set for May 13, 2019.

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Although the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for years has been investigating both Iowa State University and the University of Iowa for Title IX violations, the federal office last week dropped one of its inquiries at Iowa State.

It did so after a federal judge dismissed a sexual discrimination case against Iowa State, in which a student had accused the university of mishandling her report of sexual assault on campus.

With the dismissal, the federal office has one other open Title IX investigation involving ISU. It has two involving the University of Iowa related to sexual violence or the schools’ grievance procedures.

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

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