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December 15, 2018
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Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

Former student files lawsuit against Southern Arkansas University

By Jaime Adame, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
This article was published December 6, 2018 at 6:01 a.m.

A former student at Southern Arkansas University has filed a lawsuit against the Magnolia institution stemming from a “groping” incident that she claims was acted on with “deliberate indifference” after she reported a sexual assault in 2015, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday. The student has since withdrawn from the school.

The woman claims the university failed to respond “due to a lack of training, supervision, and the failure to implement policies to prevent and thereafter properly respond to the occurrence of sexual assault on school grounds.”

Among the details of the complaint, the former student alleges that in December 2015 she was forcibly groped by a student. She later came to believe that he and another student — with whom she had been having a consensual sexual encounter at the time — conspired for the assault.

The suit also claims that only after she transferred schools and obtained legal assistance in 2016 did SAU “commit to ‘reinvestigating’” the complaint. The student was later told by Dean of Students Carey Baker that his “inclination” was to suspend one of the students for one year, but she was not informed of this in writing, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit, filed in Texarkana’s U.S. District Court, claims that the university in Magnolia acted with deliberate indifference by “failing to adopt a compliant Title IX grievance procedure”; not providing “any interim safety measures”; not telling the student about “her rights and options” for the grievance process; and failing to tell her “about her right to be protected against retaliation,” among other failures to act.

Title IX is the federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination at schools that receive federal money. Authorities have said schools under Title IX must respond to reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Aaron Street, a university spokesman, said in an email that the school “does not comment on pending litigation.”

“However, SAU has Title IX policies and practices in place that are fair and consistent to protect our students,” Street said, adding that “policies and procedures are communicated to our students multiple times in numerous forms.”

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