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Judge Won’t Dismiss Title IX Lawsuit Against Michigan State University

— August 22, 2019

Bailey Kowalski claims that Michigan State counselors discouraged her from reporting an alleged rape–perpetrated by student-athletes–to police.

A federal judge won’t dismiss a lawsuit being brought against Michigan State University, which accuses the school of mishandling sexual assault complaints filed against its athletes.

The motion to dismiss was denied Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Paul L. Mahoney. The case deals with a set of allegations made by a former Michigan State University who claims to have been raped in an off-campus apartment by three basketball players.

The plaintiff—identified by as Bailey Kowalski—says she discussed the assault at Michigan State’s counseling office. Apparently pondering action, Kowalski says she was discouraged from filing any official report. At least one MSU employee purportedly told her that if went to the police, she’d be “swimming with some really big fish.”

Kowalski’s lawsuit, says MLive, alleges that Michigan State violated her Title IX rights. She says the university systematically treats allegations against athletes differently than those levied against ordinary students. Her suit cites four other instances of staff dissuading sexual assault victims from going to the police.

In his ruling, Maloney determined that Kowalski had “sufficiently pleaded” that Michigan State “allowed reports of sexual assault be handled ‘off-line’ by the Athletic Department and outside the normal channels of Title IX investigations.”

Michigan State is still reeling from the fallout of the Nassar scandal. Image by Ryan J. Farrick.

Maloney’s ruling also “finds it plausible that MSU’s alleged policy or custom of inadequately handling and discouraging reports of sexual assault by male athletes could plausibly have caused Plaintiff’s injury.”

Michigan State has faced sustained and intense scrutiny since 2015, when former university physician Larry Nassar was ousted as a prolific pedophile. Working both for MSU and USA Gymnastics, Nassar molested hundreds of patients—mostly underage girls—in his on-campus office and at other facilities across the country.

The school says Maloney’s ruling “represents the next step in the legal process for this lawsuit.”

“Since 2015, MSU has been working to make campus a place of awareness, respect and safety—a place where any form of sexual assault and harassment is not tolerated,” university spokesperson Emily Guerrant said. “We have also been working to improve our prevention and response efforts, especially for survivors who have to navigate complex systems and try to make informed decisions under difficult circumstances.”

MLive notes that Kowalski’s lawsuit was first filed under the name Jane Doe. However, she made her identity public earlier this year in an effort to draw more attention to the case and force Michigan State to change its policies.

A Title IX investigation into Kowalski’s case and report, completed in June, found evidence of no violations by Michigan State University.


Judge: It’s ‘plausible’ Michigan State buried sex assault claims against athletes

Judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit against MSU over handling of sexual assault cases involving athletes

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