A Palm Beach Gardens attorney filed a Title IX lawsuit against the University of South Florida on behalf of a graduate student who claims she is forced to be in regular contact with her alleged rapist.
Graduate student Samantha Garrett claims the Tampa university has kept Andrew Thurston in classes with her even though the school’s investigation allegedly found evidence he raped her and that he accepted responsibility for the attack. She is represented by Michael Dolce, of counsel at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll who specializes in Title IX cases.
“In blatant and direct contradiction of its Title IX responsibilities, the University of South Florida continues to force Samantha Garrett either to endure the sexually harassing and hostile atmosphere of her rapist’s presence, or to forego, and therefore lose access herself to, the education opportunities and benefits of her doctoral program,” Dolce said in a statement.
Garrett’s mental health and coursework have suffered because of the “unduly light” sanctions that allow Thurston to remain in class with her, the Middle District of Florida lawsuit alleges.
In a statement, the university said Garrett accepted the university’s imposed sanctions, which included a no-contact order that prohibited the two students from speaking to each other.
“The university advised Ms. Garrett that the accused student would be permitted to remain enrolled in the same academic program and courses,” according to the statement. “She was offered an opportunity to appeal and request additional sanctions that may have included stronger restrictions, but she withdrew her appeal. At that point, the sanctions were imposed and the process was completed.”