DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa State University is being sued by its former Title IX Coordinator. Robinette Kelley claims the university stonewalled her investigations into sexual assaults reported on campus, and eventually fired her because she wouldn't stop trying.
“She was trying to get Iowa State University in compliance with the law is what she was trying to do, but she was hitting barriers” said her attorney, Thomas Newkirk.
Kelley was hired by Iowa State in 2013. Her position was in charge of making sure women who reported sexual assaults were not the victim of sex based discrimination, and identify patterns that could help the school avoid Title IX violations.
“The pressure in any university is to sweep these claims under the rug, they’re embarrassing” said Newkirk.
According to Title IX policy, the coordinator must be independent.
“She’s gotta be able to report directly to the president, and they wouldn’t let her do that” said Newkirk.
Instead she claims she reported to a supervisor.
According to the lawsuit the school refused to give Kelley historical information regarding previous sexual assaults and complaints both on campus and in the Greek population.
Court documents also claim she was not allowed to revise the school's policies on interim measures so student victims wouldn't have to see their perpetrators on campus.
“She began to increase her efforts to make these changes, she went up the chain of command, she reported these issues to the office of civil rights, and it was shortly after that she was eventually terminated by the university because she wasn’t playing ball” said Newkirk.
Prior to her termination the lawsuit alleges that “Kelley began to receive feedback that suggested she reduce her efforts to comply with title IX or behave in a manner that would permit ISU to avoid its obligations under title IX”.
“That’s what they would do with some of these cases, they would say ‘well don’t investigate this one so clearly, don’t look into this one as much. They would really discourage her from doing her job” said Newkirk.
ISU released this written statement:
“We are aware of the lawsuit recently filed against the University by former employee Robinette Kelley. The University will not comment on specific allegations contained in pending litigation, but denies that it treated Ms. Kelley in any way that was retaliatory, discriminatory, or otherwise illegal. In fact, in May 2017, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission administratively closed the underlying complaint, determining that the investigative process did “not indicate a reasonable possibility of a probable cause determination.”
The University takes its obligations under Title IX very seriously and is constantly trying to improve the campus climate to eliminate sexual violence, encourage the reporting of sexual misconduct, and support survivors. We will continue to work collaboratively across campus and with the community to accomplish these goals”.
Prior to this case Newkirk successfully sued the University of Iowa for wrongful termination of former Associate Athletic Director Jane Meyer.
Kelley is suing for policy changes at the university and financial compensation.