Bose v. Bea, No. 18-5936 (6th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
While at Rhodes College, Bose was accepted into the George Washington University medical school early selection program. Bose completed Professor Bea’s course, Organic Chemistry I. The following summer, Bea approached Bose on campus, asking personal questions and inviting her to have dinner. Bose declined. Bose took Bea’s Organic Chemistry II class the following semester. Bose also took a corresponding lab course with a different professor. Bea regularly visited the lab, starting conversations with Bose and offering to help her; he did not give the same attention to other students. Bea gave his students the option to take tests early. Bose often used this option and took tests in Bea’s office while he taught another class. After Bose asked Bea, in the presence of a classmate, to stop asking about her boyfriend and “keep the relationship professional,” Bea’s behavior changed. Bose claims Bea misrecorded her test score and would not respond to Bose’s requests for help. Bea told a colleague that he suspected a student of cheating, then created a fake answer key and stayed logged in on his computer. Bea later testified that Bose took Quiz 5 in Bea’s office and that her answers matched the fake answer key precisely. The Honor Council voted to expel Bose. An investigator determined that her allegations of sexual harassment could not be sustained.
Bose sued, alleging retaliation under Title IX, 20 U.S.C. 1681–88, and defamation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the rejection of Bose’s Title IX claim. There is no individual liability under Title IX; the court declined to apply the cat’s paw theory, which imputes the discriminatory animus of another to the funding recipient, as inconsistent with Title IX principles. The district court erred by holding that Bea’s statements were subject to absolute privilege under Tennessee defamation law.