NKU: Assault lawsuit 'mischaracterizes' facts

Posted at 8:55 PM, Feb 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-24 21:46:09-05

COVINGTON, Ky. — Northern Kentucky University staunchly denied numerous allegations — calling them "mischaracterization" of facts — made in a lawsuit that claims university officials were “intentionally indifferent” to a student’s complaint that she was sexually assaulted.

In their answer to the lawsuit, filed in federal court, NKU’s attorneys stated officials “timely and…in good faith” investigated and responded to each of the unnamed plaintiff’s concerns following her initial report that she had been assaulted. They also state officials followed all university procedures appropriately.

The lawsuit, initially filed in Campbell County Circuit Court, refers to a reported incident in the fall of 2013 — the plaintiff’s freshman year — in which the student claimed a male NKU student raped her on campus.

Calling NKU’s Title IX policies “dated,” the suit goes on to state that, despite a university panel’s ruling that the woman was “more likely than not” assaulted as she described, the university “did next to nothing to protect [her] from further anxiety and harassment.”

“[The school] absolutely failed her," attorney Kevin Murphy said. "NKU failed her miserably.”

But NKU’s attorneys stated the plaintiff “selectively cited the (Title IX) information provided” in the suit, specifically when it came to the allegation that the student was not properly informed of her right to file a criminal complaint with police.

“NKU advises any student, faculty or staff member who reports sexual assault of NKU’s policies and procedures and the victim’s right to file a claim with NKU and/or authorities,” the document states.

READ MORE about the initial lawsuit here.

NKU's answer points to the Norse Violence Prevention Program, and officials also pointed to university’s Green Dot program and counseling services in a prior statement.

The lawsuit also alleged that, despite multiple complaints from the plaintiff that the male student was violating sanctions imposed upon him after the hearing, officials did “nothing” to enforce them.

“Who’s the victim here? He had sanctions they did not enforce,” Murphy told WCPO in a previous interview.

But NKU’s attorneys denied this allegation, stating NKU Deputy Title IX Coordinator Ann James, who is also named in the suit, investigated each subsequent complaint from the plaintiff and found “no reliable evidence” of sanction violation, and therefore could take no further action.

The lawsuit also described an email sent by NKU Police Chief Les Kachurek to university faculty, staff and students, in which — the plaintiffs said — the police chief criticized the woman after she protested the university’s response to the incident by carrying a mattress on her back around campus. The suit called the email a “deliberate attack on [the plaintiff] in retaliation for exercising her First Amendment rights.”

Regarding this allegation, NKU’s attorneys defended Kachurek’s email and the police presence at the protest as an attempt “to ensure the First Amendment Rights of [the plaintiff] and the other protestors” who might have assembled in support of or opposition to the plaintiff’s cause. The document also reinforced NKU President Geoffrey Mearns’ defense of Kachurek’s email, saying it was made in “good faith.”

Prior to the lawsuit’s filing, the woman, her parents, her sister and a "very upset" professor met with Mearns, James, and Vice President of Student Affairs Kim Turner, according to the lawsuit, where the plaintiff described Mearns as “completely disengaged” during said meeting.

NKU’s answer to the lawsuit called this a “mischaracterization” of Mearns, stating the university president “expressed concern and empathy for Plaintiff and her family."

WCPO has reached out to the plaintiff's attorney for further comment and is currently waiting to hear back.