Pelton removed as defendant from student Title IX lawsuit

by Dina Kleiner / Beacon Staff • September 2, 2015

After a hearing on July 8, the federal court decided the lawsuit filed by a former student who alleges the college mishandled her rape case will continue to trial. The court denied the college’s request to dismiss the student’s claim of a Title IX violation, but did grant the dismissal of President M. Lee Pelton as a defendant on Aug 18.

Violating Title IX — a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination — is one of four counts the student made against the college, including negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The student, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, reported the alleged assault by an Emerson student and MIT student in October 2012 to the Emerson College Police Department. Investigations were initiated by ECPD, the Boston Police Department, and the Cambridge Police Department, according to the lawsuit.

Doe also claims in her lawsuit that multiple administrators were unqualified to handle sexual assault cases, mishandled her investigation, and questioned and minimized her report of the incident.

The remaining defendants in the suit include Ronald Ludman, former dean of students; David Haden, former associate dean and director of housing and residence life; and Danielle Mastronardi, a former residence director. The suit also lists the Title IX investigators for Doe’s initial report from the college, Kimberly Marcella, director of employment and employee relations, and Michael Arno, director of the Office of Student Conduct.

Any further documents or depositions in Doe’s case must be delivered by Jan 29, according to the court.

Carole McFall, director of media relations for the college, wrote in an email statement to the Beacon that the college is pleased the court granted the dismissal of Pelton as a defendant in the lawsuit.

“While the court has denied Emerson's request at this time to dismiss Jane Doe's lawsuit, we remain confident that the court's review of the claims on how the college handled her case will find that Emerson did not violate Title IX laws as suggested in the lawsuit,” the statement reads. “The college's actions to support Jane Doe were compassionate, thorough, prompt, and in accordance with all applicable laws.”

Doe did not respond to requests for comment.

Trial dates for a hearing in Doe’s case are scheduled for Nov 11 and Feb 2.