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Keel v. Delaware State University Board of Trustees

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 26, 2018

MAI-AJAH KEEL, Plaintiff,
v.
DELAWARE STATE UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES, CANDY YOUNG, in her individual Capacity, PAULA DUFFY, in her individual Capacity, and RANDOLPH JOHNSON, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SHERRY R. FALLON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Presently before the court in this civil rights action is a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by defendants Delaware State University Board of Trustees, Candy Young, Paula Duffy, and Randolph Johnson (collectively, "Defendants"). (D.I. 10) For the following reasons, the court recommends Defendants' motion should be GRANTED and Plaintiffs complaint should be dismissed with prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Mai- Ajah Keel ("Keel" or "Plaintiff) was a student at Delaware State University ("DSU"), a public university located in Dover, Delaware. (D.I. 1 at ¶¶ 1, 6) Defendant Delaware State University Board of Trustees ("Trustees") is DSU's official governing body. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 1) Defendant Candy Young ("Young") was the Director of the Title IX Office at DSU. (Id. at ¶ 2) Young was responsible for participating in making, communicating, enforcing, and implementing all policies and practices at DSU with respect to 20 U.S.C. § 1681, "Title IX," including insuring DSU's policies and procedures concerning Title IX comply with federal law. (Id.) Defendant Paula Duffy ("Duffy") is the Director of the Office of Judicial Affairs at DSU. (Id. at ¶ 3) As the Director of the Office of Judicial Affairs, Duffy is responsible for overseeing the enforcement of DSU policies, regulations, and rules, including but not limited to compliance with the Student Code of Conduct, as well as implementing and overseeing any judicial proceedings relative to alleged violations of DSU policies, regulations, and rules and sanctions issued by the judicial body. (Id.) Defendant Randolph Johnson ("Johnson") is the Director of Bands at DSU. (Id. at ¶ 4) As the Director of Bands, Johnson is responsible for overseeing all band activities at DSU including providing supervision, direction, and insuring the safety of all band participants. (Id.)

         Keel alleges that on November 22, 2013, Jason Faustin ("Faustin"), a fellow DSU male student, sexually assaulted her. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-16) On or about November 25, 2013, Keel reported the assault to Dr. Brian Stark, a professor of criminology at DSU. (Id. at ¶ 18) Keel was ultimately referred to DSU's counseling services department, and Dr. Pauline Meek arranged a meeting with Keel and Faustin. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-20) At this meeting, Faustin apologized to Keel and agreed that he would no longer contact her. (Id. at ¶ 20) However, Keel claims that Faustin continued to approach her during their band practices. (Id. at ¶ 22)

         On or about August 22, 2014, and again on or about February 4, 2015, Keel made two anonymous reports of the assault to the DSU Police Department ("DSUPD"). (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24) In response, DSUPD opened an investigation, and on February 5, 2015, interviewed Keel and Faustin, separately. (Id. at ¶ 27) DSUPD officers subsequently arrested Faustin. (Id. at ¶ 24) On February 6, 2015, DSUPD reported the matter to DSU's Title IX office. (Id. at ¶ 24) In March 2015, the Title IX office opened its own investigation, and conducted a series of hearings on Keel's allegations. (Mat¶33)

         On or about March 31, 2015, the panel found Faustin "not responsible" for violating DSU's Code of Conduct. (Id. at ¶ 36) On or about April 2, 2015, Keel appealed this decision, and a new hearing was granted on April 14, 2015 based on a "lack of due process, i.e. when a student can show an error in the hearing or arbitrariness in the finding against the weight of the evidence." (Id.) On May 11, 2015, a second panel found Faustin "responsible" for the sexual assault and rape of Keel and suspended him for a minimum of one academic year - specifically 2015-2016. (Id. at ¶ 37) In its rationale supporting the sanction, the panel stated:

Having been found responsible for the sexual assault and rape of the complainant, the respondent is in violation of the General Standards of Conduct and Decorum and has exhibited violent behavior by sexually assaulting and raping the complainant. (Delaware State University, Division of Student Affairs Student Judicial Handbook, p. 5) Furthermore, the complainant has a right to continue her education and feel as though she is matriculating in a safe and secure academic environment. The complainant is now a senior. Removing the respondent for at least the 2015-2016 academic year will provide the complainant with the opportunity to do so.

(Id. at ¶ 38)

         Keel continued to attend counseling with Dr. Meek until February 2015. (Id. at ¶ 22) Keel graduated from DSU on December 21, 2015. (Id. at ¶ 44) On January 13, 2016, DSU readmitted Faustin under the condition that he "abide by the Student Code of Conduct," stating that his past actions "were of poor judgment and not representative of the mature and responsible behavior we hope to develop in our [DSU] students." (Id. at ¶ 46)

         On December 19, 2017, Keel initiated this suit against Defendants, asserting claims for discrimination on the basis of gender in violation of Title IX and violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 1) On February 20, 2018, Defendants filed the current motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (D.I. 10)

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 12(b)(6) permits a party to move to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most ...


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