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SAVE, FACE, and Attorney Group File Amicus Briefs to Protect Students’ Privacy in Lawsuits Against Universities

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SAVE, FACE, and Attorney Group File Amicus Briefs to Protect Students’ Privacy in Lawsuits Against Universities

Eric Rosenberg

May 7, 2022

Last month, two non-profits and a group of attorneys spoke up for the countless and voiceless students involved in university investigations of allegations of sexual misconduct.  They did so by filing amicus briefs in Doe v. MIT – a case pending in the United States First Circuit Court of Appeals.   These briefs sought to protect the anonymity of students involved in litigation that exposes universities’ violations of due process and Title IX.

For example, an amicus filed by Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) powerfully highlighted the magnitude of universities’ violations of Title IX.  It did so in part by outlining the research of Brooklyn College Professor KC Johnson who identified at least 225 court decisions that were issued since 2011 that favor plaintiffs filing Title IX type lawsuits against their universities. SAVE also persuasively detailed how the district court in MIT ran afoul of countless court decisions allowing pseudonyms when it prohibited the plaintiff from using a pseudonym.

Likewise, attorney Joshua Engel filed an amicus on behalf of dozens of Title IX attorneys who represent both Title IX complainants and students accused of Title IX violations.  Engel’s amicus outlined why pseudonyms are essential to allowing students to expose universities’ violations of Title IX.

Engel also detailed the harm students suffer when pseudonym status is denied by outlining numerous court decisions that acknowledged the educational and professional harm inflicted on students who are publicly identified as being involved in university sexual misconduct disciplinary proceedings.   And, Engel’s amicus highlighted how this harm is magnified by Internet search engines, social media, and today’s political climate.

Real life evidence of this harm is presented in stark detail in the amicus filed by Families Advocating For Campus Equality (FACE).  FACE is a non-profit that has interacted with nearly 2,000 accused students, professors, and families who have been adversely affected by inequitable Title IX disciplinary processes.

The tragedies of 17 of these individuals was chronicled in FACE’s amicus which detailed how public disclosure of information related to university investigations of allegations of sexual misconduct caused severe trauma and reputation damage.  For instance, FACE discussed how 8 of these 17 individuals considered suicide; 3 attempted suicides; and how FACE is aware of students who committed suicides as a result of university investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct.

These types of harms will only increase if students cannot use pseudonyms in lawsuits filed to remedy the discrimination they face on college campuses.  Accordingly, we hope the First Circuit reverses the district court in MIT.