A federal lawsuit has a new, but far from surprising, take on sexual misconduct allegations in violation of Title IX: An investigating police officer claims that he was retaliated against for blowing the whistle on a college's attempt to cover up wrongdoing in an attempt to preserve its reputation.
It flies in the face of the rule that schools bend over backward to help the alleged victim, but it makes sense as soon as you recall that the accused was a faculty member.
Police Officer Suspended for Blowing the Whistle on Title IX Allegations
The lawsuit was filed by a campus police officer at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. The officer, who has 22 years of experience in the Detroit police force, including two years spent investigating sex crimes, said that the story began with a sexual assault allegation by a female student against a male lecturer at the college.
On March 1, 2019, the student went to the local hospital claiming that she had been sexually assaulted. A different campus police officer took her initial report, but the interim police chief at UM-Dearborn told the police officer filing the lawsuit not to take the victim's statement as “it could come back to haunt us in court.”
The chief sent another officer to interview the lecturer… in his home and off the record, in violation of protocol. During the interview, the lecturer admitted having sex with the student. He also emailed the student, saying that she now knew what she could do to raise her grade. He would later resign without repercussion and take a job at another school. According to the lawsuit, the campus police department would go on to alter some paperwork to make it seem as if the prosecutor's office had refused to press charges when the case had actually never been sent.
The police officer complained about how the case was handled to his superiors, the school's human resources department, the school board, and eventually took it to the press. He was then suspended.
He filed a lawsuit, claiming that his suspension was because he blew the whistle on misconduct, making him entitled to protection from retaliation.
The Takeaway: Schools Look Out for Themselves in Title IX Cases
We see this kind of wrongdoing consistently from another perspective when schools bend over backward to help students accusing other students of sexual misconduct. In those cases, schools want to make it clear that they care about victim's rights in order to protect their federal funding under Title IX. They throw accused students under the bus by denying them the ability to defend themselves in as many ways as possible.
When the accused party is a staffer, though, schools can seem to lean heavily in the other direction. It's not because they suddenly want to protect due process rights for the accused – it's because their reputation is on the line and they want to protect it. They would look bad if a faculty member was discovered to be a sexual predator.
Students who have been accused of misconduct and who claim that they are not getting the opportunity to defend themselves are often criticized with examples of schools sticking with accused staffers. The game is different in those cases, though. The school's interests are on the other side.