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Klopfenstein v. Taylor University

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

June 21, 2018

Preston Klopferstein, Plaintiff,
v.
Taylor University, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES G. CARR SR. U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this Title IX suit, plaintiff seeks damages against defendant Taylor University (“Taylor” or the “University”) for its response to his sexual assault complaint against a fellow student. See 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a). Pending is defendant Taylor's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 27).

         For the reasons that follow, I grant the motion.

         Background

         Former individual defendant Cameron Glass[1] was plaintiff Preston Klopferstein's roommate for the 2015-16 academic year. On or about August 31, 2015, shortly after plaintiff returned to the University for the Fall, Glass began sex-related acts of harassment, including frequent nudity, unwanted touching, including of plaintiff's genitals, urination on plaintiff's bed, and similarly hostile conduct, including a threat to kill plaintiff if he disclosed the misconduct.

         On September 4, 2015, Glass's offensive behavior culminated in an attempt to sodomize plaintiff. At 11:00 p.m. that night, plaintiff notified his residence hall's director, Tyler Witzig, about his roommate's actions. That night, the University placed plaintiff in other accommodations, and he and Glass remained apart for the remainder of plaintiff's enrollment, which ended on or about September 21, 2015, when plaintiff withdrew from the University.

         Because the Friday on which plaintiff first informed Witzig about Glass's activities was the eve of the Labor Day weekend, the University did nothing further in response until Tuesday, September 8, when plaintiff met with several University officials, including the Dean of Students.

         The Dean wrote Glass on September 10, informing him that the University was investigating allegations that he may have engaged in acts of serious misconduct. Plaintiff filed a Title IX complaint on September 11.[2]

         The University then undertook an investigation. A Title IX hearing ensued and culminated in Glass's dismissal on October 6, 2015.

         After plaintiff had left Taylor, the University reevaluated its decision to dismiss Glass. Prompted by his parents, [3] and in light of medical documentation that they provided, the University determined that Glass's behavior resulted, at least in part, from Tourette's syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder. On the basis of that determination and institution of remedial measures, it allowed Glass to re-enroll.[4]

         In support of his claim for relief, plaintiff contends that during the prior academic year, Glass had engaged in sexual harassment and been the subject of a Title IX complaint. The uncontested record shows that this contention is partially true: Glass had engaged in sexually suggestive behavior toward a female non-student housekeeper, “embrac[ing]” her and making “kissing faces” at her. (Doc. 38-2, ID 694). Though she had not reported the incident, a colleague had.

         Though the housekeeper was not covered by Title IX (so that no Title IX complaint or proceedings occurred relative to Glass's misconduct), the University conducted a follow-up inquiry on learning about the incident. The housekeeper indicated that she did not want Glass to get into trouble, as he was her friend. The University counseled Glass and told him further similar acts would result in his dismissal.

         The uncontested record also shows that plaintiff and Glass had become acquainted during the prior academic year, when plaintiff, then a freshman, and Glass, then a sophomore, lived in the same dormitory. Plaintiff testified that during that year, he became aware of various acts and activities by Glass, including seeing Glass streak naked through the dorm lobby, seeing “Vine videos” Glass had posted online, in which Glass “made it look like . . . he killed someone” in an elevator, or shouted “penis, penis” on a crowded air plane, [5] and seeing on another student's cell phone videos of Glass “with other guys naked and some girls naked and just doing all kinds of raunchy and inappropriate stuff in the dorm room.” (Doc. 26, ID 161-63).

         No one, including plaintiff, reported any of those activities to the University.

         Despite having observed this conduct by Glass, plaintiff agreed to room with him for the 2015-16 academic year. The University acquiesced in their decision.

         Discussion

         To prevail on a Title IX student-on-student sexual harassment claim, plaintiff must prove: (1) the sexual harassment was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it could be said to have deprived him of access to the University's educational opportunities or benefits; (2) the University had actual knowledge of the sexual harassment; and, (3) the University was deliberately indifferent to the harassment. E.g., Vance v. ...


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