Sex Discrimination Lawsuit Over Alleged Wrongful Title IX Suspension Against UCLA Can Go Forward
From Doe v. Regents, decided Tuesday by the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Consuelo Callahan, joined by Judge Danielle J. Forrest and District Judge and Carol Bagley Amon:
Based on a former student’s bare allegations of misconduct, and before beginning a formal Title IX investigation, the University of California, Los Angeles (the “University” or “UCLA”) issued an immediate interim suspension of John Doe, a Chinese national graduate student just months away from completing his Ph.D. in chemistry/biochemistry. Over five months later, the University suspended Doe for two years after finding he violated the University’s dating violence policy by placing Jane Roe “in fear of bodily injury,” just one of the thirteen charges the University brought against him. As a result, Doe lost his housing, his job as a teaching assistant on campus, his ability to complete his Ph.D., and his student visa….
As we clarified in Schwake v. Arizona Board of Regents (9th Cir. 2020), the relevant inquiry on a motion to dismiss a Title IX claim in this context is whether the alleged facts, if true, raise a plausible inference that the university discriminated against the plaintiff on the basis of sex…. Doe’s First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) meets this standard….
At all relevant times herein, Doe was a Chinese national graduate student at UCLA on a student visa pursuing his Ph.D. in chemistry/biochemistry. He first met then-UCLA student Jane Roe in a chemistry class during the spring quarter of 2014, and the two began dating that summer. Their long-term romantic relationship continued, and the couple became engaged in December 2016. They planned to marry after Doe was scheduled to graduate with his doctorate in June 2017.
However, the relationship ended abruptly in February 2017, after Doe learned that Roe had been unfaithful to him throughout their relationship. On February 12, Doe sought to break off his engagement with Roe and the two met briefly outside Roe’s home. The next morning, by text message, the pair agreed to meet on campus after Doe completed teaching his course and after Roe got off work on February 13, to exchange property that each had in their possession. Sometime thereafter, Doe learned that Roe had withdrawn the entire balance of approximately $8,000 from their joint bank account.
At about 9:45 a.m. on February 13, Roe showed up unannounced to Doe’s teaching assistant office on campus, before he was scheduled to teach, to confront him. Roe was not an active student enrolled at UCLA at the time. Roe pounded on the door repeatedly, without announcing herself, until Doe answered. Doe, who was meeting with another graduate student at the time, refused to let Roe into his office. Roe demanded that Doe return her Social Security card which she claimed Doe had in his possession. When Doe asked for his engagement ring back, Roe said she had thrown it into the ocean.
Doe explained that he needed to leave to teach his class and asked Roe to wait until he was finished, but Roe refused to let him leave his office. Roe attempted to block Doe’s doorway with her arms stretched out and threatened to call the police to have Doe arrested. Eventually, Doe was able to get around Roe to get to his class. Roe followed him and unsuccessfully tried to prevent him from entering his classroom.
While Doe taught his class, Roe
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