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Court rules college showed bias in sexual assault case

Posted at 8:08 PM, Jun 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-29 20:08:07-04

CLEVELAND — A federal appeals court for the second time since 2018 ruled Monday that an Ohio college discriminated against a male student accused of sexual misconduct.

In a 2-1 vote, a panel at the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Oberlin College showed bias against a male student who was expelled in 2016 when disciplinary proceedings concluded he had violated the school’s sexual assault policy.

The student, identified as John Doe in court documents, appealed the dismissal of his lawsuit last year by a federal judge in Cleveland. The 6th Circuit ruling sends the case back to the judge for reconsideration.

A spokesman said Oberlin College officials declined to comment about the ruling.

The ruling said all three judges agreed that Doe’s defense during disciplinary hearings cast doubt “on the accuracy of his proceeding’s outcome.” Doe claimed what happened in his dorm room in February 2016 at the storied liberal arts college outside Cleveland was consensual.

Doe’s attorneys argued in his lawsuit and appeal that Oberlin discriminated against him when the school misapplied its sexual assault policy’s definition of “incapacitation.” The school did not hear from a friend of both students who said the woman did not appear drunk when she entered Doe’s room, the attorneys argued.

Judge Ronald Lee Gilman dissented, citing previous case law that allegations of a flawed proceeding do not prove bias.

A three judge panel from the 6th Circuit ruled in February 2018 that Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, showed bias in disciplining a male student accused of sexual assault. The student claimed he was too drunk to remember what happened after a female student got in bed with him.