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Wright State faces another lawsuit by ex-tennis player

Another former Wright State University men’s tennis player has sued the school in federal court for allegedly violating his due process rights during an investigation into sexual misconduct claims.

A similar lawsuit was brought earlier this fall by former team members Diego Venegas and Marc Sodini. That suit said a team culture of “mutual horseplay and banter” allegedly included inappropriate contact between teammates. Wright State has asked a U.S. District Court judge in Dayton to dismiss those claims.

The newest lawsuit filed Monday in Cincinnati’s U.S. District Court lists “John Doe” as the plaintiff, saying that disclosing his identification “will cause the student irreparable harm as this case involves matters of the utmost personal intimacy.”

Nine of 11 men’s tennis team members — including Doe — were expelled from school, causing the Raiders to not field a team in spring 2016. Complaints made against the dismissed students included a hazing practice involved poking teammates in the rectum, which was called a culture of “mutual horseplay and banter.”

The allegations in the lawsuits appear to explain why on Jan. 21, 2016 the school abruptly canceled its spring 2016 men’s tennis season because many players had reportedly violated the code of student conduct.

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The defendants in the new lawsuit are Wright State, University Appeals Panel Chair Sarah Twill, Director of Office of Equity and Inclusion Matthew Boaz and Director of Community Standards and Student Conduct Chris Taylor.

The new suit said Doe is a Texas resident and that his tennis scholarship was worth more than $30,000 per year.

“This case arises (amid) a growing national controversy stemming from the Federal Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights’ threats to withhold federal education funds to compel colleges and universities to address ‘sexual violence’ on their campuses,” the complaint said.

“After years of criticism for being too lax on campus sexual assault, at the urging of OCR and other high-ranking officials in the Obama Administration, colleges and universities are relying on Title IX to crackdown on alleged perpetrators.

“This crackdown has gone too far, as schools are ill-equipped to handle and adjudicate matters of sexual assault.”

Two members of the tennis team claimed that during the fall 2015 semester, as they got on a bus after meets, the older members of the team, including Doe, would “digitally penetrate their anus through their clothing.”

Doe denies the poking allegations. Doe “acknowledged that there is “horsing around” by the team, but denies that there was any hazing or other objectionable or inappropriate conduct.”

The school’s Gender-Based Harassment and Violence Panel (GBHVP) held seven hearings on Feb. 10 against all nine team members accused.

Doe’s attorneys wrote that Doe “jabbed other teammates in the rear in a non-sexual manner as part of team camaraderie. The Hearing Panel heard testimony that such conduct was common and not sexual in any way.”

The suit said those hearings were unfair and resulted in Doe’s expulsion. Doe appealed, but was denied.

“WSU, from the outset, presumed that John Doe was guilty in order to look good for the Dept. of Education and advocates,” the suit claimed.

A WSU spokesman said in a statment, “It is the university’s practice not to comment on any matters that may be the subject of pending litigation. University action involving student athletes and any related incidents have been consistent with our established policies and procedures regarding student conduct.”

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