Appeals court reinstates portion of lawsuit against WKU


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Andi Dahmer, former WKU SGA president who filed a lawsuit against WKU in 2018 claiming she endured “verbal, mental, and emotional abuse that constituted discrimination based on sex.”

Michael Crimmins, Administration reporter

A federal appeals court has reinstated a portion of a lawsuit filed against WKU in 2018 by a former student regent and president of the WKU Student Government Association.

The case was originally filed by Loandria “Andi” Dahmer in 2018, who enrolled at WKU in 2015 and quickly became active in SGA and in 2017-18 served as its president.

The suit made accusations against WKU, President Timothy Caboni, Andrea Anderson as Title IX coordinator and Charley Pride, SGA faculty adviser.

In Dahmer’s complaint, made only to Pride in “pre-February 2018,” the appeals court vacated the grant of summary judgment regarding her Title IX claims involving “student-on-student harassment.”

The appeals court also vacated the claim of Pride’s “qualified immunity,” recommending further proceedings.

“As for Dahmer’s remaining § 1983 claims, the district court granted summary judgment because it held that the individual defendants were each entitled to qualified immunity,” the opinion states. “However, because we now vacate and remand Dahmer’s pre-February 2018 Title IX claims for further consideration, we likewise vacate and remand the district court’s grant of qualified immunity to Pride on Dahmer’s § 1983 claims.”

The appeals court upholds the district court’s original ruling in all other claims put forth in the lawsuit made by a district judge last year, saying Dahmer largely showed inadequate evidence to support her claims.

“The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision to dismiss virtually all claims filed against WKU and its employees,” Jace Lux, university spokesperson, said in an email on behalf of WKU and Pride. “The Court of Appeals instructed the District Court to decide an outstanding issue against the University and Charley Pride. The University will renew its motion for summary judgment as to the remaining issue and expects that the District Court will ultimately dismiss the remaining claims.”

Dahmer claimed in the original lawsuit that she “endured verbal, mental, and emotional abuse that constituted discrimination based on sex” while serving in SGA, both from her fellow members and from Charley Pride, SGA’s faculty adviser.

“According to Dahmer, the abuse included various expletive-laden, sex-based threats of violence from peers, as well as sexually explicit comments and inappropriate behavior on the part of […] WKU’s SGA faculty advisor,” the opinion states. “She thus made claims of both student-on-student and faculty-on-student harassment.”

In addition to the harassment, she claimed Anderson, then serving as WKU’s Title IX coordinator, “failed to act in accordance with her duties” once Dahmer had officially reported the harassment to WKU after February 2018.

The suit also named Caboni who, according to the opinion, Dahmer claimed “retaliated against her for reporting the alleged harassment and deliberate indifference” by not writing her a letter of recommendation for the Rhodes Scholarship.

The report states she received a letter from the dean of the Potter College of Arts & Letters giving her “WKU’s strongest endorsement.” From that recommendation she received the Truman Scholarship.

“While it is undisputed that Dahmer did not receive the letter of recommendation or the scholarship that she sought, she still failed to establish that the lack of a letter from Caboni was severe enough that it would dissuade a reasonable person from engaging in protected activity,” the opinion states. “Therefore, Dahmer could not present evidence to successfully establish a Title IX retaliation claim.”

In 2018, the district court who heard her case awarded a summary judgment to the defendants stating insufficient evidence for her claims of harassment, indifference and retaliation. 

“Dahmer now appeals the district court’s grant of summary judgment on her Title IX and § 1983 claims, arguing in part that the appellees possessed actual knowledge of and were deliberately indifferent to severe and pervasive sexual harassment, and that her educational environment was affected by a hostile environment,” the opinion states.

Thomas Law Offices, the firm working with Dahmer, said they are encouraged by the court of appeals’ decision.

“This case has had many twists and turns, but we will continue to work tirelessly to pursue justice for Ms. Dahmer and to hold the WKU administration accountable,” Lindsy Lopez, partner at Thomas Law Offices, said. “We are encouraged by the Sixth Circuit’s recent opinion overturning the federal trial court’s dismissal and we look forward to continuing the fight.”

Read the Herald’s original reporting on the Andi Dahmer story.

Administration reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected].