Feds drop one Title IX investigation at ISU

But two other civil rights investigations continue

Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Friday, July 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Friday, July 31, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Aligning with a federal judge’s decision in February to dismiss a sexual discrimination case against Iowa State University, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has dropped its related Title IX investigation.

In a letter last week to ISU, attorneys pointed to their reliance on the court in reviewing a former student’s allegation the university mishandled her report of sexual assault on campus.

“Because the federal court dismissed student A’s Title IX claim with prejudice, which is considered a decision on the merits, OCR is dismissing student A’s OCR complaint,” according to the letter.

The letter stresses its decision is specific to this case and should not be construed as a “formal statement of OCR policy.” 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.

In a statement Monday, ISU confirmed the case’s dismissal.

“While we are pleased the court and the OCR recognized Iowa State’s response to allegations of sexual misconduct as appropriate, we will not be satisfied until no student has to suffer the devastating impact associated with this behavior,” the statement from ISU spokesman John McCarroll said in part.

The case stems from a reported sexual assault in ISU housing on March 30, 2014, according to the lawsuit filed by a former student in September 2016. Although facts in the case largely are undisputed, the student argued ISU should have handled her case differently by moving the accused attacker — before he was convicted — or providing her with housing alternatives.

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Helen Adams wrote in her February decision that although ISU could have handled the case differently, “such possible options do not render ISU’s actions deliberately indifferent.”

The woman withdrew from ISU in September 2014. Judge Adams found the accused student, identified as Patrick Whetstone, “had a right to a hearing on the merits of his charges.”

ISU police in 2015 charged Whetstone with third-degree sexual abuse, and he pleaded guilty in September 2016 to intent to commit sexual abuse. He was sentenced to two years of probation.

ISU still faces other lawsuits related to its handling of sexual assault allegations and Title IX mandates.

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