Former female student files complaint June 25 against Delaware State University, claiming mistreatment and sexual discrimination by the university after she was assaulted by a male student. DSU must answer by July 27.
Delaware State University is facing a lawsuit over civil rights violations from a former female student who was assaulted and is upset with how she was treated by the university.
The complaint was filed June 25 in Delaware District Court because it alleges a state entity violated federal civil rights laws. It was served to DSU on July 7 and also names Ron Williams in the suit, who was the director of Residential Life and Judicial Affairs at the time.
The plaintiff, Camisha Terrell of Maryland, alleges she was sexually discriminated against when her male assailant was allowed to return to campus with no restriction, and Delaware State only offered to allow her to reschedule any classes they both were in. She also states she was denied her due process rights when the university found her in violation of “student code without recourse, without a hearing and without the right to a grievance procedure” and placed her on administrative leave.
“The issue isn’t that the assault happened,” said Ronald Poliquin, attorney for the plaintiff. “The issue is how the issue was handled by DSU.”
DSU spokesman Carlos Holmes said “because it is ongoing litigation, we have no comment.”
The complaint states that after the Oct. 25, 2007, assault and while still in the hospital, Terrell was told by Williams she needed to sign a “no contact” letter and change her class schedule if she felt threatened. Although campus police promised her that her attacker would not be within 100 yards of her, the suit states this was not the case when she returned to campus.
Poliquin said the university’s actions are consistent with prior behavior where a female is attacked and male students are treated as if nothing happened as DSU is mostly concerned with having no bad publicity.
“This isn’t something that’s never happened before,” he said about the assault.
In addition, more than a year after the assault, Terrell was charged with violations of student code including failure to obey visitation policy, unauthorized entry of a residence hall, and assault and battery, the complaint states. Her male assailant was charged with attempted offensive touching.
Terrell and her mother also were told by Williams, at that time, that he had the final say in how students would be reprimanded, according to the complaint.
It was like the university was coming after her when she started complaining about her treatment, Poliquin said.
Prior to filing a suit, Poliquin said his client and her prior attorney both sent letters to the university; she’s also tried to get answers through elected officials.
“This is a publicly-funded university,” he said. “They were unable to get any answers about how she was treated.”
It’s reasonable for a person to want to be protected by a state university and not have their reputation threatened, Poliquin added.
In addition to a judgment against the defendants, Terrell is seeking compensation for court costs and fees, compensatory and punitive damages, notification that the defendant’s conduct was illegal and wrongful, her student personnel file to be expunged of any derogatory information relating to the complaint, and is asking to keep the defendants from retaliating against her now or in the future.
DSU has until July 27 to answer the complaint, Poliquin said.
“If the new [DSU] administration wants to start off on the right foot and show they’re different, then they need to deal with this,” he said.
Email Jayne Gest at email@example.com
Timeline of assault and Delaware State University’s action as laid out by the complaint
Oct. 25, 2007: Plaintiff Camisha Terrell was assaulted and beaten by a male student for refusing to have sex.
Oct. 31, 2008: Plaintiff received a letter from DSU stating she had been charged with student code violations, including assault and assault and battery.
Nov. 1, 2008: Plaintiff and her mother met with Director of Residential Life and Judicial Affairs Ron Williams who stated he had final say in how students are reprimanded.
June 25, 2009: Complaint filed against DSU and Williams by plaintiff in Delaware District Court.
July 7, 2009: DSU was served with the suit.