Shank v. Carleton College, No. 19-3047 (8th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit against the college, alleging that it mishandled the sexual misconduct disciplinary process and committed other acts of deliberate indifference in the wake of the first of two assaults. Plaintiff seeks relief under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Minnesota common law.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the college on all of plaintiff's claims. In regard to the Title IX claim, the court concluded that, on the record, it cannot say that a reasonable jury would conclude that the college's response to the sexual assault by Student One amounted to deliberate indifference. Although the court noted that the college could have been more inclusive during the sexual assault complaint and more attentive to plaintiff in the aftermath, the court agreed with the district court that permitting a meeting between plaintiff and Student One to take place, after the sexual assault proceedings had concluded, was not an act of deliberate indifference. Even if it was, it is far from clear that requiring plaintiff to attend the meeting would have violated Title IX. The court also concluded that, even assuming that track posters of Student One on campus qualify as sexual harassment for purposes of Title IX liability, the record evidence fails to support a finding that not removing the posters amounted to deliberate indifference. Finally, the evidence does not show that the college's conduct in the wake of plaintiff's complaint concerning Student Two was clearly unreasonable in light of the known circumstances. In regard to the ADA and Section 504 claims, the court concluded that nothing in the record suggests that the college denied plaintiff reasonable accommodations as she endeavored to finish her degree while struggling with challenges to her mental health brought on by the sexual assaults.