February 22, 2018 / 12:10 AM / 9 months ago

Judge dismisses New York Columbia University student's claims over rape reports

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a Columbia University student’s lawsuit accusing the school of acting with deliberate indifference after she was sexually assaulted twice as a freshman in her dormitory room.

FILE PHOTO - Students walk across the campus of Columbia University in New York, October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar

U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan said Amelia Roskin-Frazee failed to show that Columbia responded in a “clearly unreasonable manner” after learning about the October and December 2015 incidents, which she formally reported to its Student Conduct and Community Standards office in August 2016.

The case is one of several in recent years accusing U.S. colleges of improperly handling reports of sexual assaults and harassment.

The judge said Columbia’s actions complied with federal guidelines and its own sexual misconduct policy, including in January 2016 when it honored Roskin-Frazee’s request not to investigate her rape claims after contacting her about them.

Daniels also said Columbia could have reasonably decided that searching for the assailant would be “futile” because it knew only his height and hairstyle, and security camera footage had been erased by the time it opened an official investigation.

“We’re obviously disappointed,” Alexander Zalkin, a lawyer for the plaintiff, said in an interview. “We don’t agree with the judge’s decision, and we’re evaluating our next steps.”

In a statement, Columbia said it works to prevent gender-based misconduct, and ensure that “every student feels safe, respected, and fully able to experience the opportunities the institution provides.”

Now a junior in college, Roskin-Frazee had sought money damages for Columbia’s alleged violations of Title IX, the U.S. statute that prohibits schools receiving federal funds from engaging in gender discrimination, as well as gross and ordinary negligence.

Under former President Barack Obama, the U.S. Department of Education issued directives aimed at strengthening protections for people who claimed to be victims of such crimes.

Last July, the school settled a Title IX lawsuit by a former male student who said the school discriminated against him by letting Emma Sulkowicz, a student who accused him of rape, carry a mattress around the campus in protest.

The male student, Paul Nungesser, has said the sex was consensual, and he was not disciplined by the school or charged by authorities. He and Sulkowicz have graduated from Columbia.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Clive McKeef

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