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Federal judge allows Title IX lawsuit involving Grinnell College to move to trial


A federal judge this week ordered that a Title IX lawsuit concerning Grinnell College’s handling of a sexual misconduct complaint proceed to trial.

John Doe v. Grinnell College involves a male student who was expelled by the college in 2016 on the recommendation of former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, the adjudicator chosen by Grinnell to determine a resolution for the case. 

Over six months after their alleged encounter, Doe was accused of sexual misconduct by a female student who had sex with him at his off-campus housing after the two went skinny-dipping at a local park with a group of friends.

Doe, in the lawsuit filed in 2017, alleges that his expulsion from Grinnell violated the college’s own policies and procedures and was motivated by gender bias under Title IX.

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger ruled that two counts of the lawsuit could move forward to trial; she dismissed two other counts.

“Doe has provided evidence sufficient to cast doubt on the accuracy of the outcome of his disciplinary proceeding and, further, has provided evidence suggesting that gender bias could be a motivating factor that caused the inaccuracy,” Goodgame wrote in her ruling. “Doe has offered sufficient evidence to show Grinnell may have failed to comply with its Title IX obligations.”

Doe began attending Grinnell about five years ago. At the time, sexual violence on the nation’s college campuses was on the rise, prompting increased attention by the media.

Doe is represented by Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP in New York along with David Goldman of Babich Goldman PC in Des Moines.

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