University of Nebraska officials say they acted promptly and properly in handling complaints of sexual misconduct against athletes and other male students, according to a motion filed Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit in which nine women allege sex discrimination and violations of the Title IX gender-equity law.
The lawsuit filed in July 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska details multiple allegations from the women -- one of whom is a former Nebraska volleyball player -- that the school mishandled complaints of sexual assault and harassment, including reports involving accusations against at least five athletes.
The lawsuit alleges violations under the Title IX gender-equity law, as well as racial discrimination, negligence and lack of due process. In it, the women allege that school officials made errors in their investigations of some of the women's reports. The lawsuit states that the university "handled sexual misconduct complaints against student-athletes in a different manner than how other complaints were handled."
Although not named directly, two of the athletes referenced in the lawsuit -- Katerian LeGrone and Andre Hunt -- are former Nebraska football players facing criminal sexual assault charges in Lancaster County, Nebraska. A female student -- who is not a party to the lawsuit -- told the police and NU's Title IX office that the players raped her in August 2019. The university expelled them last spring.
Former NU volleyball player Capri Davis, who is named in the lawsuit, and a friend using the pseudonym Jane Doe 4 reported to NU's Title IX office in April 2019 that LeGrone and Hunt "placed their hands on the women's buttocks, and grabbed them without their consent at a party" the previous month.
The lawsuit says "no investigation was initiated at the time" and they did not hear from Title IX investigators until they reported the incident again that fall after they learned of the alleged rape in August.
In its response, the university says that the women did not file a formal complaint in April 2019 or ask for an investigation.
After the university started its investigation that fall, Jane Doe 4 reported also being sexually assaulted by LeGrone and another football player in August 2018. In neither case did Nebraska Title IX investigators find the athletes responsible for sexual misconduct.
The lawsuit states Jane Doe 4 told an investigator that she had a class with one of the men, and the investigator did not offer her options to avoid him, such as removing him from the class or allowing her to switch classes or attend remotely. Nebraska's motion to dismiss the lawsuit does not specifically address this allegation.
The motion to dismiss states the women were not able to identify exactly which player allegedly touched them inappropriately and at what point during the March 2019 party. The motion also says that the behavior, "while indecent, does not amount to 'severe, pervasive and objectively offensive' conduct" that can be said to deprive the women of access to education.
In the August 2018 incident, the woman reported she was having sex with one man when his friend switched places and started having sex with her without her consent. According to the motion, both men said the second man was never in the room, and there were no other witnesses to back up the woman's version of events.
The motion states it is appropriate to dismiss a case "in which a plaintiff alleges deliberate indifference but in reality simply disagrees with the outcome reached by the school."
In other detailed responses to the allegations, the motion notes instances where university officials state the women gave different versions of events in separate interviews, did not ask for certain accommodations or actions, or declined to make formal reports.
"Plaintiffs fail to allege facts to support their claim that the State Officials violated their constitutional rights," the motion states. "Instead, Plaintiffs set forth broad conclusory allegations more conducive to creating scandal than proving up a constitutional violation."