A former student at the University of Scranton has filed suit against the university, claiming that school officials failed to implement reasonable safeguards that would have prevented him from experiencing anti-LGBT harassment from another student.
The federal lawsuit was filed Aug. 27 in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. A jury trial has been requested.
“John Doe,” who currently resides in New Jersey, graduated from the university in May. He paid the university $138,612.85 in tuition, room and board fees, yet university officials “turned a blind eye while [Doe] was subjected to bullying, harassment and physical abuse” because he’s gay, according to the lawsuit.
From August 2018 to December 2018, Doe lived in off-campus housing shared with another student who allegedly tormented him because of his sexual orientation.
Doe disclosed his sexual orientation to the alleged harasser in August 2018 and the alleged harasser “ostracized Doe and treated him with aversion by frequently speaking down to Doe in a denigrating manner and disagreeing with or debating Doe,” according to the lawsuit.
The alleged harasser would frequently taunt Doe about being gay and speculate about the sexual orientation of other male students. On one occasion, he asked Doe in front of other housemates, “Why don’t you bring a girl over?” On another occasion, when Doe protested about the alleged harasser’s treatment of women, the alleged harasser said, “You don’t even like girls,” according to the lawsuit.
On Nov. 1, 2018, the alleged harasser texted Doe: “You’re below me intellectually but you’re probably used to being in that position.” Also in the text, the alleged harasser made derogatory remarks implying that Doe was the receptive partner during anal sex with an ex-boyfriend.
Doe repeatedly complained to university officials, to no avail. One administrator allegedly told Doe, “Don’t let it get to you.” Doe “did not feel his complaints were being taken seriously” by school administrators, according to the lawsuit.
On Dec. 15, 2018, the alleged harasser physically assaulted Doe. During the attack, the alleged harasser said, “I’m gonna murder you in your sleep” and referred to Doe as a “faggot,” according to the lawsuit.
Doe’s mother spoke to a dean at the school about the alleged harassment and was told, “Pennsylvania doesn’t recognize this as a hate crime.” The dean failed to take remedial action against the alleged harasser, according to the lawsuit.
School administrators didn’t order the alleged harasser to leave the house and live somewhere else. Instead, they suggested that Doe leave the house. For safety reasons Doe moved into on-campus housing for his final semester at the university, which was more expensive, according to the lawsuit.
Doe “continues to experience pain and suffering, mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment and emotional distress on account of the abuse he suffered and for which Doe has incurred additional expenses in attending professional counseling,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages, along with implementation of a university policy that anti-LGBT harassment will be addressed appropriately by university officials and that a harasser will be required to move to different housing.
A university spokesperson declined to comment, but referred a reporter to the university’s non-discrimination policy posted on its website, which forbids anti-LGBT bias.
Justin F. Robinette, an attorney for Doe, said his client hopes the lawsuit will help others in a similar situation. “It’s completely unacceptable in 2019 that LGBT people have to endure this kind of bigotry and abuse at college,” Robinette told PGN. “My client feels nobody else who is LGBT should be forced to go through what he went through just to get an education. My client is looking forward to his day in court.”