Louisiana Record

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Suit alleges Dillard University fails to protect female students from harassment, rape

By John Myers | Apr 16, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — A nationwide women's organization is suing Dillard University, alleging failure to protect female students from rape and sexual harassment.

Jane Doe filed a complaint March 29 against Dillard University, alleging the school failed to take appropriate action to protect Doe and other female students from an individual, identified as J.B., whom the school administration knew was dangerous. 

"Dillard University already knew he was a threat to the campus, he had assaulted another student, and that student had reported the rape," Alexandra Brodsky, a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center told the Louisiana Record. "And the school took no action." 

The National Women's Law Center is one of three co-counsels action on the plaintiff's behalf along with The Fierberg National Law Group and Herman, Herman and Katz.

According to Doe's complaint, in November 2015, another student was raped by J.B., who reported the crime to the university. However, Doe alleges Dillard failed to investigate the report or share the events with the student body. Consequently, it was much easier for JB to gain access to Doe's dorm room and sexually assault her. The claim asserts "Dillard had actual knowledge of the substantial and foreseeable risk posed by J.B., whose conduct and presence on Dillard’s campus created a sexually hostile environment for female students."

The suit asserts Dillard acted with deliberate indifference to its knowledge that J.B. posed a threat to other students, which had further negative consequences for Doe. 

"After the rape JD and his friends harassed Doe to the point that she dropped out of Dillard and ended up homeless for six months," Brodsky said. "Now she is working a low-wage job and we feel very strongly that Dillard had the opportunity to prevent this course of events and chose not to."

According to the complaint, Dillard subjected Doe to sexual harassment and deprived her of equal access to educational opportunities and thereby violated Title IX of the 1972 educational amendments, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). In addition the complaint asserts Dillard failed in its duties owed to Doe as her university and as the owner of the dormitory that was her home. This caused her to suffer significant emotional distress as well as other physical and emotional injuries.

Doe and her attorneys seek compensatory damages and penalties, legal fees and injunctive relief ordering Dillard to revise its policies, procedures and practices so that it is in compliance with Title IX.

Brodsky said the case against Dillard is very strong. "I am confident that the judge will see that this a strong and clear case," she added. "The crux of the matter is that Dillard knew that J.B. posed a threat and did nothing to prevent further violence. The school had a clear cut responsibility to stop it from happening again and it is disappointing that it will require legal action on our part to get Dillard to change its ways."

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Organizations in this Story

Dillard University, New Orleans, LA Athletics