- Louisiana Legislature Amends Hazing Law to Impose stricter requirements.
- Jury convicts Matthew Naquin of negligent homicide in the death of Max Gruver
- LSU loses motion to dismiss the Gruver Estate’s Title IX Claims
Newsletter > July 2019 Special Edition > "LSU loses motion to dismiss the Gruver Estate’s Title IX Claims"
LSU loses motion to dismiss the Gruver Estate’s Title IX Claims
Micah Kamrass, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
On July 19, 2019, Chief Judge Shelly Dick of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana issued a decision that could have sweeping implications for fraternities and sororities.
As part of the civil case related to the tragic hazing death of Maxwell Gruver, a former student at Louisiana State University, Mr. Gruver’s parents brought a Title IX claim against the University1. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex at universities that receive federal funding. While the most recent decade has seen an explosion of Title IX cases arising from allegations of sexual assault, the Gruvers’ case is the first to assert a university’s responsibility for a hazing death on the basis of sex discrimination.
In the complaint of their civil suit, the Gruvers stated that LSU strictly enforces its anti-hazing policies against women’s sororities, but that it provides far laxer enforcement for its men’s fraternities. As support of this argument, the Gruvers claimed that there were 20 findings of policy violations among the 27 men’s fraternities on campus during the last five years, yet the University remained deliberately indifferent to enforcement. This is contrasted with the Gruvers’ assertion that “when LSU has received reports of hazing at its sororities, the sanctions LSU has imposed on the sororities have been significantly greater in length and degree than sanctions LSU generally imposes on fraternities for comparable misconduct.”
Summarizing the Plaintiff’s argument, Judge Dick wrote “as a result of LSU’s policy and practice responding differently to the hazing of male students than the hazing of female students, the hazing of female Greek students is ‘virtually nonexistent,’ while the hazing of male Greek students is rampant.”
LSU brought a motion to dismiss the Title IX claim on the grounds that this type of Title IX claim was not actionable. Since motions to dismiss occur prior to discovery, the Court is forced to decide to the motion construing the facts most favorably to the non-moving party, which in this instance is the Gruvers.
The Court found that the Gruvers “clearly alleged that LSU misinformed potential male students about the risk of hazing in fraternities, had actual notice of numerous hazing violations, and failed to address or correct the hazing issue for Greek males while aggressively and appropriately addressing and correcting hazing issues in sororities, thereby providing protection to female Greek students that was not equally provided to Greek male students.” For this reason, the Judge denied LSU’s motion to dismiss, allowing the Title IX claim to proceed to discovery.
Even though this is just a preliminary ruling on a motion and not a decision on the merits of the case, and even though this decision is likely to be appealed by the University, the decision could still have widespread implications in the fraternal world. Universities are now on notice that they must have equally enforce their policies and procedures for both men’s and women’s groups. Failure to do so could result in claims from harmed individuals, and also from fraternal groups who feel they have been punished disproportionately to groups of the opposite sex. Fraternal Law will continue to monitor this case and to provide updates.
- Case No. 3:18-cv-00772-SDD-EWD