Kesterson v. Kent State University, No. 18-4200 (6th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Kesterson, a Kent State student-athlete, told her coach, Linder, that Linder’s son had raped her. Linder, a mandatory reporter under Kent State’s Title IX policy, never notified anyone. Linder stopped calling Kesterson by her nickname; chastised her in front of another coach for becoming emotional; removed Kesterson from her starting shortstop position and limited her playing time; and required Kesterson to attend events at the Linder home, where her accused rapist lived. Kenderson subsequently told other Kent State employees about the alleged rape, but none reported it. The university learned about the assault two years later when Kesterson made a complaint to the school’s Title IX office. An investigation led to Linder’s resignation. Kesterson sued Kent State, Linder, and another coach citing the free-speech retaliation protections of the First Amendment, her equal-protection rights, and Title IX. The district court granted the defendants summary judgment.
The Sixth Circuit reversed in part. A reasonable coach would have known at the time Linder acted that she could not retaliate against a student-athlete for reporting a sexual assault. Rejecting the Title IX claim, the court stated that Kent State’s employees’ failure to follow policy did not amount to deliberate indifference by the school.