United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Elisabeth Doherty, who alleges that she was raped while she
was a student, brought this action against Defendant American
International College (“AIC”). AIC's Motion
for Summary Judgment [#41] is now before the court. After
review of the parties' arguments and the evidence
presented, AIC's motion is ALLOWED.
outset, the court notes what this case does and does not
address, and the framework within which this case must be
decided. The complaint does not assert claims directly
against Doherty's assailant, and is not an appeal of
AIC's decision on such claims. Instead, the suit asserts
that AIC violated Title IX of the Educational Amendments of
1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1688, by failing to respond
promptly and appropriately to her report that she was
sexually assaulted. On summary judgment, the court assumes
that Doherty was indeed raped by her fellow student, but
nonetheless must decide the federal claim for damages from
AIC in the context of the purpose and scope of Title IX.
IX provides, in pertinent part, that “no person . . .
shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation
in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
discrimination under any education program or activity
receiving Federal financial assistance.” 20 U.S.C.
§ 1681(a). Title IX's primary purpose is “to
prevent recipients of federal financial assistance from using
[federal] funds in a discriminatory manner.” Gebser
v. Lago Vista Indep. Sch. Dist., 524 U.S. 274, 292
(1998). Although Title IX does not expressly provide a
private right of action, the Supreme Court has held that
Title IX's legislative scheme contains the landmarks of
an implied private remedy for offending discrimination. See
Cannon v. University of Chicago, 441 U.S. 677, 717
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e et seq., Title IX does not explicitly provide for
monetary damages. The Supreme Court has recognized that
monetary relief may be available in limited circumstances.
See Gebser 524 U.S. at 287 (“Whereas Title VII aims
centrally to compensate victims of discrimination, Title IX
focuses more on ‘protecting' individuals from
discriminatory practices carried out by recipients of federal
funds.”); Id. at 292 (“Until Congress
speaks directly on the subject, . . . we will not hold a
school district liable in damages under Title IX . . . absent
actual notice and deliberate indifference.); see also
Davis v. Monroe Cty Bd. of Educ., 526 U.S. 629, 643
(1999) (“We consider here whether the misconduct
identified in Gebser-deliberate indifference to known acts of
harassment-amounts to an intentional violation of Title IX,
capable of supporting a private damages action, when the
harasser is a student rather than a teacher. We conclude
that, in limited circumstances, it does.”).
Accordingly, a damages recovery against the college is
available only when such a remedy will not “frustrate
the underlying purpose of the legislative scheme, ”
Cannon 441 U.S. at 703, namely in cases in which the funding
recipient was deliberately indifferent to known acts of
this framework in mind, the court proceeds to the facts in
was a student at AIC from August 2012 through 2014.
Def.'s Rule 56.1 Statement (Def.'s SOF) ¶ 1
[#43]. During this time, the college had written policies
which prohibited sexual assault, and provided a procedure for
reporting incidents and a disciplinary process for resolving
sex discrimination complaints against students (hereinafter,
“Title IX Policies”). Id. ¶ 2. AIC
provided its Title IX Policies and alcohol policies to its
students. Id. ¶ 11. At the time in question,
Nicole Cestero was the Senior Vice President of Human
Resources and Title IX Coordinator at AIC and Mathew Scott
was the Dean of Students and the Deputy Title IX Coordinator.
Id. ¶¶ 4, 7.
her junior year, Doherty was living in a dormitory on campus
(“the Dorm”). Id. ¶ 12.
early morning hours on Saturday, August 30, 2014, Doherty was
in her suite with several other students, including,
“Respondent, ” an AIC student who lived on
Doherty's floor. Id. ¶¶ 13, 15. After
Respondent left the suite, he sent Doherty a text message
asking if she wanted to come to his room “to
chill.” Id. ¶ 16. Doherty agreed to go
she was in his room, Respondent took Doherty's clothes
off her and raped her while Doherty pleaded with him to stop.
Id. ¶ 18. Def.'s SOF Ex. 27 (Hearing
Transcript) 3:14-4:17, 5:15-17 [#43-42]. Doherty tried to
make noise but was unable to because Respondent pressed his
body on her face. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 20 [#52]; Hearing
Transcript 4:16-22 [#43-42]; Def.'s SOF Ex. 8
(Investigation Report) 2 [#43-23]; Def.'s SOF Ex. 9
(Doherty's Written Statement) 2 [#43-24]. At some point
during the incident, Respondent got off Doherty, during which
time she was able to put back on her clothes, fight off his
efforts to grab her, and run out of his room. See
Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Rule 56.1 Statement (Pl.'s
SOF) ¶ 18 [#52] ¶¶ 21- 27 [#52]; Hearing
Transcript 5:14-20 [#43-43]; Def.'s SOF Ex. 1 (Doherty
Dep.) 57:4-20 [#43-1].
woke up her suitemates, and told them that Respondent had
raped her. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 29 [#52]; Doherty Dep.
58:12-59:7 [#43-1]; see also Investigation Report 9
[#43-23]; Doherty's Written Statement 3 [#43-24];
Def.'s SOF Ex. 10 (JK Statement) [#43-25]; Def.'s SOF
Ex. 11 (EM Statement) [#43-26]; Def.'s SOF Ex. 12 (SD
Statement) [#43-27]. Approximately twenty minutes later,
Doherty went with her suitemates to the Campus Police and
reported the rape. Pl.'s SOF ¶ 30 [#52].
Campus Police contacted Cestero, who arrived on campus within
30-45 minutes. Id. ¶ 31-32. The Responding
Officer secured the Title IX Victims' Rights form from
Doherty and written witness statements from Doherty and her
suitemates. Id. ¶ 31. Cestero explained her
role as Title IX Coordinator to Doherty and offered her
water, a blanket, a professional counselor to speak with, and
another place to rest. Cestero also informed Doherty that
there were services available to her, including the
College's counseling center and off campus resources.
Id. ¶ 33. Cestero asked Doherty for a verbal
statement, which Doherty provided. Id. ¶ 32.
Cestero explained to Doherty her Title IX rights and reviewed
the Victims' Rights form with her, and informed Doherty
that she could file a formal complaint though the
College's Title IX procedure and press criminal charges
with the police. Id. ¶ 33.
meeting with Doherty, police officers went to
Respondent's room and transported him to the Campus
Police station for an interview with the Police Chief and
Cestero. Id. ¶ 38. Respondent denied raping
Doherty. Id. The Chief gave Respondent a trespass
notice and Respondent left campus with his mother.
couple of days after their initial contact, Cestero called
Doherty to check on her well-being and advised that they
should remain in touch. Id. ¶ 39.
September 3, 2014, Doherty informed Cestero that she had
decided to proceed with a formal complaint against
Respondent. Cestero answered various questions that Doherty
had about the College's complaint process and informed
her that because the College could not completely trespass
him until the outcome of the investigation, Respondent would
be permitted on campus only to attend classes and football
practice. Cestero explained that Respondent would be
prohibited from contacting Doherty for any reason in any
manner, and that the College would provide her with needed
support. Id. ¶ 41. The next day, Respondent was
verbally informed of the formal complaint against him and
told he was to have no contact with Doherty. Id.
¶ 43. The College issued him a written no contact/no
trespass order, alerting him that a violation of the order
would be grounds for his immediate removal and potential
dismissal from the College. The College made Doherty aware of
the order and its terms. Id. ¶ 44.
September 8, 2014,  Doherty reported to Campus Police that she
saw Respondent walk into the Dorm. Campus Police immediately
went to the Dorm to try to find Respondent and serve him with
a new trespass notice. Campus Police were unable to locate
Respondent but continued to make periodic checks of the Dorm
and ensured that all Resident Hall Assistants were informed.
Id. ¶ 45. Campus Police also went to the
football field and spoke with the Head Coach, who stated that
Respondent was not there. Id. ¶ 46.
emailed Cestero that same day, stating that she was upset
about having seen Respondent entering the Dorm, and asking
Cestero to confirm the details of Respondent's no contact
order “ASAP.” Id. ¶ 47. Cestero
responded the next morning and confirmed that Respondent was
only permitted to be on campus to attend classes and football
practice; he was not permitted in the dormitories.
Id. ¶ 48. A few hours later, Cestero sent
Doherty another email that Respondent stated to Cestero that
he would not be returning to AIC for the fall semester.
Id. ¶ 49.
mailed Respondent an updated no contact/no trespass order to
his home out of state. Id. ¶ 50. The order
prohibited Respondent from entering any AIC dorms pending the
investigation and reminded him that a violation of the order
would be grounds for dismissal from the College. Id.
that, Doherty never saw Respondent again. Id. ¶
accordance with its Title IX Policies pertaining to victims
of sexual assault, AIC provided Doherty interim
accommodations, including academic accommodations and
counseling services. Id. ¶ 40. When Doherty
resumed taking classes and returned to classes a few days
later, she was provided counseling from the on-campus
counseling center. Id. ¶ 52.