INDIANAPOLIS -- A former Butler University student filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging the university was negligent in failing to remove a student athlete accused of sexual assault.
The federal civil suit, filed by attorney Kathleen DeLaney, of DeLaney and DeLaney LLC, on behalf of the unnamed client accuses the university of violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and asks for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The student, who is referred to only as M.H. in the suit, alleges she was sexually assaulted by a member of the Butler football team in December 2016 following a party at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house.
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According to the suit, the alleged assailant, who was a resident of the fraternity house at the time, pinned M.H. to his bed and had sex with her against her will.
M.H. reported the assault to school officials the following day. The suit notes that the national Lambda Chi Alpha organization suspended its Butler chapter until at least spring 2021 a month after the alleged assault took place. The national organization did not provide a reason at the time for the suspension.
“College should be an experience centered on learning and growth, not violence and trauma,” M.H.’s attorney DeLaney said in a statement Monday. “Title IX requires universities to protect their students from sexual violence, but Butler failed in this case.”
In the suit, M.H. claims her alleged assailant had previously been accused of sexual assault in fall 2015 and spring 2016 by another female student. The lawsuit claims that Butler University failed at the time to ask for the alleged assailants name or open a Title IX investigation into the allegations.
In February 2017, M.H. filed a Title IX complaint against the university. As a result of the investigation into the complaint, the university ultimately expelled the football player, the lawsuit says, but allowed him to remain enrolled as a student residing on campus until May 2017.
M.H. reportedly filed a criminal complaint against her alleged assailant in June 2017. The lawsuit alleges that the Butler University Police Department “failed to conduct a timely criminal investigation” in response to M.H.’s report of rape. The lawsuit also alleges that university President James Danko had told BUPD to “back off” in regards to illegal activities taking place at fraternities following complaints from fraternity presidents.
The lawsuit names Butler University, Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and Alpha-Alpha Zeta Alumni of Lambda Chi Alpha Inc., the owner of the fraternity house, as defendants. In addition to the Title IX complaint against the university, M.H. accuses the school, fraternity and alumni organization of one count each of negligence.
Butler University released the folllowing statement via email Monday afternoon in response to the lawsuit:
“Butler University takes its obligations under Title IX very seriously, including in this case in which the University thoroughly investigated the allegations and expelled the accused student after completing the investigation and hearing process.
Butler is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for all members of its campus community. We have prevention, response and awareness programs, policies, and practices in place to address complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and have enhanced these over time to increase effectiveness.”
The lawsuit asks for compensatory damages for costs associated with M.H.’s transfer to another university, medical and/or psychological treatment, emotional distress, mental anguish and pain and suffering, along with punitive damages for the alleged negligence and Title IX violations.
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