An attorney for WKU filed a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit against the university and six affiliated parties which claimed racial discrimination and sexual misconduct.
An amended lawsuit was then refiled with additional information, including an affidavit from a former theatre and dance faculty member.
The initial suit was filed in August and claims that the plaintiff, Jada Jefferson, was subject to “verbal, mental and emotional abuse” during her time as a student in WKU’s Department of Theatre and Dance.
The suit names WKU, President Timothy Caboni, former President Gary Ransdell and Andrea Anderson, general counsel and former Title IX Coordinator, as defendants. It also names Theatre and Dance Department Head David Young and Michelle Dvoskin, theatre program coordinator.
The lawsuit details multiple instances spanning from Fall 2015 to Fall 2019, claiming violations of Title IX and IV of the U.S. Code. The instances primarily center around defendant Scott Stroot, who no longer teaches at WKU.
WKU’s motion asked the Warren County District Court to dismiss all fourteen of Jefferson’s state and federal claims.
It alleges that the claims are “time barred” by Kentucky’s one-year personal injury statute of limitations and that Jefferson should have brought forth claims within a year of them occurring. Jefferson graduated in May 2019, and the suit was filed in August 2020.
The motion states that the defendants deny the allegations in the case, primarily those regarding WKU’s “alleged foreknowledge” of Stroot’s conduct.
An amended complaint was filed on behalf of Jefferson on Oct. 20. It included an affidavit from Andrea Grapko, a former WKU faculty member of theatre and dance.
Grapko was hired in 2006, and in the affidavit, she claimed she’d witnessed behavior from Stroot similar to what Jefferson alleged in the complaint.
In the affidavit, Grapko wrote that she reported Stroot’s behavior to then Dean David Lee.
“After I reported Stroot to Dean Lee, Dean Lee said he was very concerned and would look into it,” Grapko wrote in the affidavit. “I didn’t hear anything for weeks from Dean Lee or Stroot.
“Then, Stroot sent an email to the faculty, stating he had decided to step down as Department Head. I never received any follow up contact from Dean Lee about our conversation or my concerns about Stroot.”
The Herald emailed Stroot requesting comment but did not receive a response. Lee declined to comment.
In a statement to the Herald, Lindsay Cordes, the attorney representing Jefferson, said Grapko’s reporting of Stroot shows that WKU knew about his behavior.
“It appears WKU decided to condone Professor Stroot’s behavior and other students later on, unfortunately, like Jada Jefferson, were discriminated and harassed by Professor Stroot,” Cordes wrote. “Many students have come forward since we have filed our case with similar complaints and issues relating to Stroot and this behavior seemed to span for many, many years.”
The Court will rule on WKU’s motion to dismiss the case, and WKU will have a chance to respond to Jefferson’s amended complaint.
Laurel Deppen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @laurel_deppen.