Judge: Banned Miami student accused of sexual assault can return to school

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A federal judge has ruled a male Miami U student accused of sexual assault can return to school.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A student who was barred from Miami University after he was accused in the sexual assault of a classmate can return to the school, a federal judge has ruled.

In a lawsuit filed in July, the student claimed he was denied due process rights — including an opportunity to confront his female accuser — during a Miami investigation and hearing that led to his being banned from the school for two years.

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But U.S. District Court Judge Michael R. Barrett this week granted the student’s request for an injunction halting Miami’s disciplinary actions — allowing him to re-enroll — while the lawsuit is litigated.

The student, who has re-enrolled, is only identified as “John Doe” in his lawsuit against the Butler County school. The student has previously declined to comment on his lawsuit and the recent injunction ruling.

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The student’s attorney, Josh Engel, told this news outlet, “we are pleased that the court recognized that students have significant due process rights, and that the process used by Miami University in this case violated the students right to fair notice and confront his accusers.”

Miami officials said Tuesday they don’t know yet if they will appeal the judge’s ruling.

“Miami is committed to a fair and impartial judicial process and denies any bias in that process,” Claire Wagner, a Miami spokeswoman, said.

Miami students returned to classes Monday.

The case is the latest local example of a growing legal pushback seen on some college campuses nationally as men sue — and in some cases have eventually won — against their colleges after being accused of committing sexual assaults they maintain were actually sexual encounters with willing female students.

Some accused male students say they are wrongly presumed guilty by their universities and forced to prove their innocence — sometimes while suffering quick disciplinary actions prior to or during any college hearing process — in what they claim is a reversal of American criminal and civil law’s presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Women’s advocates, backed by officials at the U.S. Department of Education monitoring Title IX violations on campuses, contend a higher level of vigilance — and quick disciplinary action — are needed at American colleges, with some citing what they describe as a culture of rape that has threatened female students and left male perpetrators unpunished.

Miami officials said in July and reiterated to this newspaper Tuesday that “alleged Title IX violations involving accused students are investigated in a prompt, fair and impartial manner by trained staff through Miami’s Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution.”

“Disciplinary hearings for Title IX violations are held before a trained Administrative Hearing Panel - two faculty and one staff member. Panel members receive annual training on issues related to Title IX violations and on conducting a hearing process that protects the safety of students and promotes accountability,” Wagner told this newspaper Tuesday.

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On May 1 a Miami hearing panel ruled the male student was “responsible for committing sexual assault in violation … of the code of student conduct,” according to the student’s July lawsuit.

Engel said his client’s case “is part of a nationwide trend of judges overturning unfair and arbitrary decisions by schools in cases involving allegations of sexual assault. These are difficult cases and the issue of sexual assault on campuses is important. For those reasons, schools should be working to provide more, not less, due process to student in order to assure the most reliable outcomes.”

The male student claimed a female classmate engaged in consensual sexual activity with him on Miami’s main Oxford campus in November but then months later reported her accusations of sexual assault against him to school officials.

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