A former University of Kansas theater student is suing the university, saying the school failed to investigate claims he was sexually harassed by a professor and another student.
The former student, referred to in court documents as John Doe 58, seeks an undetermined amount of compensation for “harms he suffered” because of an alleged “hostile educational environment.”
He accuses KU of creating an unsafe environment in violation of federal Title IX law established to prohibit gender discrimination including sexual harassment and sexual assault.
How KU officials reacted to Doe’s report that he had been sexually assaulted and harassed, court documents say, led him to suffer suicidal thoughts, panic attacks and emotional distress.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The lawsuit claims that in the spring of 2015, a KU professor, identified in court papers as J.S., invited Doe to his home for dinner and told him other students would be there. When Doe arrived he was the only student there. He claims the professor was intoxicated and forcefully kissed him and grabbed his genitals.
Doe reported the incident to the university’s Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, which investigates Title IX cases and offers victims protection and information about support resources.
But Doe’s lawsuit says that in the course of reviewing his claims against the professor, IOA investigators engaged in “victim blame and victim shame.” The lawsuit says the investigation was never completed.
According to the lawsuit, other claims of sexual harassment had been made against the professor.
“KU had previously conducted an investigation into Professor J.S.’s drunkenness and established that it adversely affected his job performance,” the lawsuit says. “KU knew or should have known that Professor J.S. sexually assaulted at least one other student prior to his assault,” on Doe.
Doe later left the university, and according to the lawsuit the professor was eventually fired. It does not say why. The lawsuit does say that Professor J.S. “was not disciplined or terminated” for the alleged prior sexual assaults, for drunkenness or for the sexual assault claims made by Doe.
The university declined to comment on the claims made in the lawsuit.
“The university doesn’t comment on pending litigation,” Erinn Barcomb-Peterson of the Office of Public Affairs said in an email response to The Star.
Doe’s lawsuit further claims that later that year he was sexually harassed by another student during a movement class. The lawsuit says that he was touched “in a sexually overt manner” and that a professor saw it happen.
The lawsuit claims no complete and adequate IOA investigation was conducted. It says Doe was intimidated by the university, which failed to reprimand the professor, or train employees to comply with university policy regarding Title IX.
Doe is seeking punitive damages and money to cover the cost of attorney, and counseling expenses.