Recent Lawsuits

There have been several recent lawsuits related to student rights under Title IX.  Below are some examples of cases filed against colleges and universities. 

John Doe v. Purdue University, 928 F.3d 652 (7th Cir. 2019)

In 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decided Doe v. Purdue University. In this case, the university found a male student guilty of sexual violence against a woman. As a result, the male student was suspended for an academic year with conditions on his readmission. He was then expelled from the Navy ROTC program which also terminated his ROTC scholarship and his plan to pursue a career in the Navy. Subsequently, the student filed a claim for monetary relief under 42. U.S.C Section 1983 against Purdue University and university officials alleging that his expulsion after he was found guilty of committing sexual violence violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by using constitutionally flawed procedures to determine his guilt, and violated Title IX by imposing a punishment based on sex bias. 

The district court dismissed the student’s suit.  However, the Seventh Circuit disagreed and determined that the student adequately alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX. On the Title IX claim, the court found that the male student’s gender bias claim should have made it past the dispositive pleadings stage considering, among other facts, the university’s resource center shared a Washington Post opinion article arguing that men, not alcohol, cause sexual assault on campus. The court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.

John Doe v. University of the Sciences, 961 F.3d 203 (3rd Cir. 2020)

In this case, a male student sued a private university after being expelled for allegedly violating the university’s sexual misconduct policy when two female students accused him of sexual misconduct. At the time of the expulsion the student had completed nearly all of the coursework required to earn a degree in biomedical science. The male student’s claim alleged sex discrimination in violation of Title IX as well as breach of contract.

The district court dismissed the student’s claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed the district court’s dismissal holding that the student’s complaint contained plausible allegations claims for sex discrimination under Title IX considering, among other facts, that the university selectively investigated the male student and not the female students involved. The court determined that when the male student’s allegations about selective investigation of only the male student and not the female students is combined with his allegations related to the university’s pressure to comply with the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, the male student stated a plausible claim of sex discrimination.

Doe v. Oberlin College, 963 F.3d 580 (6th Cir. 2020)

In Doe v. Oberlin College, a male student brought action against a private college alleging sex discrimination under Title IX. The college chose to expel him after a female classmate brought a sexual assault complaint against him. The district court granted the college’s motion to dismiss. The Sixth Circuit in that case, however, reversed the district court’s decision after finding that the student sufficiently alleged that his expulsion was the result of sex bias.

Schwake v. Arizona Board of Regents, 967 F.3d 940 (9th Cir. 2020)

In this case, a graduate student brought action against a university alleging that it violated Title IX by discriminating against the student on the basis of sex during the disciplinary proceedings. The district court dismissed the case but the Sixth Circuit reversed in part and remanded finding that the student’s allegations were sufficient to state a Title IX sex discrimination case considering, among other factors, that the university failed to review exculpatory evidence submitted by the male student.

Hunter v. Department of Ed - Recently Dismissed Class-Action Lawsuit

In 2021, the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) sued the Department of Education on behalf of 40 current or former LGBTQ+ students of faith-based institutions. The group claimed that the religious exemption of Title IX violated their rights under the Equal Protection Clause (Fourteenth Amendment), the Due Process Clause (Fifth Amendment), and the First Amendment.

If successful, the Department of Education would have been unable to grant religious exemptions – which would likely diminish the ability of faith-based institutions to act on their religious beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity. Such an outcome would have placed these institutions at risk of losing federal funding, including student financial aid.

In January 2023, the District Court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the lawsuit. According to the opinion, the plaintiffs failed to establish that Title IX religious exemptions violate the First, Fifth, or Fourteenth Amendments. According to the opinion, when "a particular application of Title IX would not be consistent with a specific tenet of the controlling religious organization," religious exemptions are "substantially related to the government’s objective of accommodating religious exercise.” 1

Since it was upheld, institutions can continue to apply the Title IX religious exemption when making decisions according to their deeply-held religious beliefs – including requests for accommodations based on students' sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

REAP expressed its intention to "continue to fight to protect LGBTQIA+ students' rights on these campuses" and is considering an appeal. 2 

1 Hunter et al. v. U.S. Department of Education et al., 6:21-cv-00474-AA  (D. Or. 2023). 

2 “Court Finds LGBTQ+ Students Harmed by Government but Provides No Legal Remedy.” Religious Exemption Accountability Project. Web. Accessed January 18, 2023.