United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
SAMANTHA L. GARRETT, Plaintiff,
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA BOARD OF TRUSTEES, Defendant.
D. MERRYDAY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Garrett, a graduate student at the University of South
Florida, sues (Doc. 1) USF under Title IX and claims a
“hostile educational environment, ” a
“clearly unreasonable response to sexual violence,
” and retaliation. USF moves (Doc. 22) to dismiss the
complaint for failure to state a claim.
Saturday, November 12, 2016, Garrett visited a classmate,
Andrew Thurston, at Thurston's off-campus apartment.
(Doc. 1 at ¶ 9) That night or early the next morning,
Thurston allegedly “committed sexual battery on
[Garrett]” by forcing unspecified “sexual acts on
[Garrett].” (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 9-10)
weeks after the alleged assault, Garrett mentioned the
incident to a USF psychology professor, who reported the
incident to a Title IX official at USF. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 15)
On December 6, the day after the psychology professor's
report, USF acknowledged receiving the report in a
“Title IX initial contact letter” to Garrett. On
December 9, Garrett formally complained to USF about
Thurston's conduct, and USF assigned Joanna Elwood to
investigate. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 18) Elwood allegedly learned
that Thurston “offered to drop out of USF so as not to
interfere with [Garrett's] progress” and that
Thurston falsely reported to police that Garrett “was
threatening suicide, ” a false report that purportedly
resulted in Garrett's involuntary commitment under the
Baker Act. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 20) Garrett alleges that Elwood
found evidence sufficient to substantiate the complaint that
Thurston violated two provisions of USF's code of conduct
“relate[d] to  non-consensual intercourse and
non-consensual sexual contact.” (Doc. 1 at ¶¶
21 and 23)
March 9, 2017, USF allegedly wrote Thurston a
“no-contact letter” in which USF asked Thurston
not to contact Garrett. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 22) That same day,
USF charged Thurston with violating USF's code of
conduct. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 23) USF recommended sanctioning
Thurston by imposing a “deferred suspension” that
permitted Thurston to remain enrolled at USF and to attend
the same classes as Garrett. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 24) Thurston
allegedly accepted the recommended sanction, and USF informed
Garrett on March 20, 2017, about the disposition of her
complaint against Thurston. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 24-25)
The complaint includes no allegation that Garrett appealed
from the disposition of her university complaint.
the incident, Garrett allegedly “began to struggle and
fail in her academic studies.” (Doc. 1 at ¶ 20)
Garrett attributes her academic and emotional difficulties to
Thurston's continued presence in Garrett's classes
and in other areas of the campus; both Garrett and Thurston
remain enrolled in a “small” and “close
knit” program. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 20) Garrett alleges
that USF “permitted Thurston to continue to have
regular direct contact with [Garrett]” by:
a. Park[ing] in the same parking lot that [Garrett] was
assigned to park in.
b. Maintain[ing] an office as a teaching assistant in the
same building that [Garrett's] assigned office was in.
c. Be[ing] on campus at the same time [Garrett] was for
academic purposes, including attending classes.
d. Attend[ing] classes that Plaintiff was enrolled in.
e. Enter[ing] classrooms where [Garrett] was performing her
duties as a teaching assistant.
f. Attend[ing] weekly guest speaker sessions that were an
academic requirement for [Garrett's] studies.
g. Be[ing] in the same room as Plaintiff, no matter how
small, at educational meetings, educational and ...