Stephen F. Austin University recently agreed to settle a lawsuit with a handful of students who alleged their 14th Amendment rights were violated.
Earlier this week, Stephen F. Austin University announced it reached a settlement with six students who filed a lawsuit after the school allegedly violated their 14th Amendment rights to due process. The suit stemmed from an “incident in which the six students were accused of filing a false report against an African American student.”
The settlement announcement came Thursday morning, though details have not yet been released. Prior to the settlement, the suit stated, “This is about procedural due process and the truth.”
The suit itself was filed against SFA, the Board of Regents, and Dr. Scott Gordon, the school president. According to the lawsuit, the accused students were “being deprived of their constitutional due process rights based on falsehoods, misrepresentations, and a rush to convict arising from an on-campus incident involving several SFA students that occurred on or about September 14, 2020.”
According to Stephen F. Austin University, a student falsely reported that “Christin Evans, a 17-year-old freshman, and cheerleader at SFA, was trying to stab another person with scissors.” As a result of the allegations, campus police ended up storming into her dorm room at 3 a.m. “with guns drawn while she was asleep.” When commenting on the incident during a press conference, SFA Police Chief John Fields said his three officers “who assisted in the call followed protocol for what they believed the situation to be.” He also added that his officers did not go into the room “like the wild, wild west,” as Evans claimed. Instead, he said his officers “knocked on Evans door four times before a suitemate let them in through her door.” He added:
“Only one officer had a weapon unholstered. It was night and it was no lights on in the room, and he had a light on it, on his weapon. At no time was he intentionally trying to point it at the subject.”
Fields further stated that the “situation de-escalated when Evans was found asleep in her bed” and added the incident was “not a racially motivated incident because some Black females were involved.” He said the officers were also wearing body cameras during the incident, and his office has “asked for the parents to permit to release the body cam.” He added, “Once that’s released, everyone will see exactly what happened.”
Erika Harris of Harris Consulting agreed the body cam footage will help reveal what really happened. Acting on behalf of the university, she said “the body cam video will help paint a very different picture than what has been previously reported in the past about the incident at Evans’ dorm room, specifically that police did not barge into her room with guns drawn.”
Randall Kallinen, the attorney representing Evans, said the family hasn’t seen the body cam footage, though it has requested the video twice so far. The family would like to see the footage before agreeing to release it.
As part of the lawsuit, the accused students argued the “university and its representatives have publicly referred to them as ‘perpetrators’ and ‘suspects’ and have guaranteed that they will be disciplined.” Additionally, the students argued the school “took two weeks to complete their own investigation, yet they didn’t provide them with adequate time to prepare for their hearing.” It turns out, the students were only “given 2-3 days to prepare for their defense.” The suit further stated:
“SFA and its representatives, however, refuse to provide Plaintiffs with adequate notice of what SFA rules they are accused of violating, refuse to turn over key evidence related to the incident, including video recordings and witness statements, and refuse to allow Plaintiffs adequate time to prepare to respond to the allegations against them.”