College seeks dismissal of rape-related lawsuit

According to court documents, A.P., a former college student, alleges she was raped in her on-campus dorm in Browning Hall at William Jewell College by a fellow student and football player in October of 2017. The suit alleges the college knew of Z.P.’s prior “acts of sexual harassment and acted with deliberate indifference.

LIBERTY — Legal representatives for William Jewell College seek dismissal of a lawsuit brought against the college by a former student who alleges she was raped on campus and the college did not protect her.

In the lawsuit, filed May 3 in the United States District Court Western District of Missouri, the former student and plaintiff, referred to in the suit as A.P., secured the law firm of Harris & Hart out of Overland Park, Kansas. The lawsuit accuses the college of violating Title IX, a federal law designed to protect students equally. The suit also asserts William Jewell was negligent by allowing the accused rapist, referred to as Z.P., to remain on campus for weeks, and negligent by not following its own safety measures on dorm checks. The suit also claims the college knew of prior sexual misconduct by Z.P. and did nothing to prevent students on campus being put at risk.

In a 52-page court document filed June 3 by Derek T. Teeter of law firm Husch Blackwell, the college denies a slew of accusations against it including having any knowledge of Z.P. that indicated he posed a risk of sexual violence and that it didn’t do a background check on Z.P. before signing him to play football for the school.

“To the contrary, the college required Z.P. to provide letters of recommendation prior to his admission. His high school principal and his high school English teacher sent letters to the college that were received on or about Jan. 27, 2017,” the filing states. “... The transcript gave no indication Z.P. had committed sexual misconduct in high school.”

The college’s attorney also denies A.P. has a valid claim as the school has no duty to protect adult students from third-party criminal acts.

“The college … takes extensive steps to maintain a safe campus environment and to promptly and equitably resolve reports of sexual misconduct,” states the response filed by Teeter. “… It had no general duty to protect its adult students from the criminal acts of third parties, especially where the plaintiff voluntarily initiated contact with Z.P. and voluntarily invited him into her room, contrary to college policy ….”

Through Cara Dahlor, the college’s director of marketing, the college released a statement, saying William Jewell has worked hard to create an environment of understanding, support and education around the issue of sexual assault.

“This is a serious challenge that affects colleges across the country and our society as a whole. We continue to work with faculty, staff, students and local partners to create training and awareness among our campus community,” according to the college’s statement. “We continue to stand with this former student as a reporter of sexual assault, just as we did throughout our review of the matter. We worked diligently to address the matter through all the established policies and processes available. Ultimately, we expelled the individual who was responsible while also working to provide the former student with resources and support.”

The marketing director said the college is concerned for the plaintiff but does not accept her allegations.

“It would be inconsistent with who we are as an institution to let false or inaccurate claims go unresolved. We have corrected inaccurate information in our response to the lawsuit, as well as provided additional information regarding our actions throughout the process. We look forward to finding an appropriate resolution to this matter.”

A.P.’s attorney, Brette Hart, did not return requests for comment.

The judge in the case has not yet ruled on the motion to dismiss. No court date is set.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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