Court Case: Doe v. Notre Dame University and St. Mary’s College

Case History

Jane Doe, a former student at St. Mary’s College, an affiliate of Notre Dame University, sued both St. Mary’s and Notre Dame for sexual harassment in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The complaint also alleged violations of various Indiana state laws.

Doe alleged that in March 2001, while she was a freshman at St. Mary’s, a member of the Notre Dame football team raped her in his car outside her dormitory. Shortly after the incident, Doe claimed that she contacted an official at Notre Dame, who discouraged her from pursuing any action through the university’s disciplinary process. This official also informed Doe that the earliest she could be given relief through the process would be the following academic year. As a result of this conversation, Doe chose not to pursue any action through Notre Dame’s disciplinary process.

Doe claimed that school officials at Notre Dame and St. Mary’s were well aware of the incident, but conducted only a cursory investigation and took no actions to assist her or discipline her assailant. She further alleged that despite knowledge of the incident, officials at St. Mary’s denied Doe’s request to be assigned living quarters on the same floor with a friend who had assisted Doe after the assault. She was unable to complete her education at St. Mary’s after the academic year concluded.

Doe maintained that St. Mary’s and Notre Dame have a history of inadequately responding to sexual assaults of which they have actual knowledge, including a failure to adequately punish the assailants or provide reasonable assistance to the victims.

The state police declined to pursue an investigation of the incident and did not press charges against the football player. Doe ultimately filed a civil suit against him in state court, and in 2003, a jury awarded Doe a total of $1 million in punitive and compensatory damages.

Doe filed suit against Notre Dame and St. Mary’s in federal court in 2003. In spring 2004, the court denied Notre Dame’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. According to a document filed with the Court in February 2005, the matter was resolved.

Key Case Issue

Sexual harassment in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.