Settlement approved in former student's lawsuit against ISU, former Title IX coordinator over sexual assault report

Phillip Sitter
Ames Tribune

A former Iowa State University student who sued the university and its former Title IX coordinator over their alleged failure to thoroughly investigate her complaint of a sexual assault has reached a settlement, which was approved Monday afternoon.

Former ISU student Emily Black, of West Des Moines, sued the university and its former Title IX coordinator, Robinette Kelley, in October 2017 in Polk County District Court.

In October 2013, Black reported to ISU officials that she had been sexually assaulted by another student, according to documents from the state attorney general's office.

"Upon investigation by ISU's Title IX investigator, ISU determined there was insufficient evidence to warrant bringing university student misconduct charges against the accused student and closed the case in July 2014," the documents added.

According to Black's lawsuit, she had been raped in her dorm room by a fellow student who was a former friend. She alleged the university and Kelley had not properly investigated her case, did not keep her updated on the status of the case, and had not assured her a safe environment so she could remain a student at the university, while her alleged rapist continued on as a student.

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Black's case had been set for trial last month, but on March 15, a week after the scheduled trial date, Fifth Judicial District of Iowa Judge William Kelly approved a settlement in the case that Black had agreed to. 

The $125,000 settlement was then unanimously approved Monday by the State Appeal Board. 

The settlement forever releases public officials from liability related to the claims of Black's lawsuit.

Black declined to comment at this time.

ISU spokesperson Angie Hunt said, "This settlement allows both the university and Ms. Black to move forward in a more positive way, eliminating the cost associated with further litigation." 

Hunt added "The university takes its obligations under Title IX very seriously. We are continually striving to eliminate instances of sexual violence on campus, to encourage reporting of sexual misconduct, to create and maintain a fair process for both complainants and respondents, and to provide support to all students. We sincerely hope that Ms. Black can heal and find success and well-being in her future endeavors."

Black will receive $65,109, while the remaining $59,891 of the settlement will go to the Johnston law firm that represented her.

On the same day in October 2017 that Black filed her lawsuit, Kelley — who was fired in October 2015 after having been ISU's equal opportunity director and federal Title IX coordinator for more than two years — also sued the university in Polk County District Court.

From 2018:Iowa State pays $125,000 in settlement with former Title IX director

She alleged the university had deliberately blocked her efforts to properly investigate sexual assault complaints or revise policies to enforce no-contact orders, remove alleged perpetrators from dorms where their accusers also resided, or provide academic accommodations for accusers.

Her case was moved in November 2017 to the United States District Court in the Southern District of Iowa and later settled. Iowa State agreed to pay Kelley and her attorneys $125,000 to resolve both the state and federal lawsuits while continuing to deny it discriminated or retaliated against Kelley.

Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at psitter@gannett.com. He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.