NORMAL — A lawsuit was filed against Illinois State University in federal district court Tuesday seeking in excess of $1 million for a male ex-student who says his rights were violated by the way the university handles cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct.
The lawsuit was filed by Johnson Law Group, a Bloomington law firm, identifying the former ISU student only as John Doe, to protect his privacy and reputation.
According to the lawsuit, John Doe was initially restricted from parts of campus and ordered not to contact the female student who alleged they had non-consensual intercourse in November 2016 and he was later suspended — all before a hearing took place.
No criminal charges were filed.
An internal ISU hearing took place in late January and he was notified on Feb. 1, 2017, that the university ruled in his favor but he did not receive notice that the suspension and restrictions were lifted until three weeks later, according to the lawsuit.
Because of how the matter was handled, John Doe, a senior at the time, failed his fall 2016 classes and was unable to enroll in spring 2017 classes, the lawsuit said.
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“ISU wrongfully suspended and banned our client from the university, despite him being vindicated of the allegations and all wrongful conduct," said Brendan Bukalski, one of his attorneys.
The lawsuit alleges that the process ISU uses under the federal Title IX anti-discrimination law violates the due process rights of those accused of sexual misconduct, usually males, by denying them a fair and impartial hearing before imposing sanctions.
ISU spokesman Eric Jome said, “Because this is pending litigation, the university can't make any comment on it.”
Bukalski said the allegations against his client were “entirely baseless,” pointing to text messages between John Doe and his accuser, Jane Doe, after the encounter that “debunked” the claim that the intercourse was not consensual.
The lawsuit said ISU changed how it handles sexual misconduct cases in 2011, replacing its full hearing process with a single investigator process in which the investigator submits written reports to an administrative hearing officer and the person accused cannot confront or question the witnesses included in the investigator's report.
Bukalski said they are looking for “an admission by Illinois State University that they acted improperly” and for ISU to reform the way it conducts hearings in cases involving allegations of sexual assault.
Further, they are seeking more than $1 million to compensate John Doe for the interruption of his education, damages to his reputation, emotional distress, lost professional opportunities and other expenses. The incident remains on his college record, making it difficult for him to enroll elsewhere, the lawsuit said.
They also are seeking to have the charges and derogatory information about John Doe removed from his education record.
Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota