Law and Courts

Lawsuit of $56 million Coming Up: The University of Utah Failed to Protect a Student

On October 22, 2018, University of Utah student, 21-year-old Lauren McCluskey was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend Melvin Shawn Rowland. The news moved the whole nation, and apparently, it’s still fresh to this day.
Lauren’s parents filed a lawsuit on Thursday, June 27 (this year). The charges state that the university was “intentionally indifferent” towards the abuse Lauren had suffered, which means that the university would be violating Title IX – Federal gender-equity law.
Parents say that the lawsuit is the only resort left to restore justice and make a positive effect.
A year ago, on October 22, 2018, before Lauren got killed, she asked for help by calling the campus police department several times, to report that she was getting threats from her ex-boyfriend Rowland shortly after a breakup.
Lauren’s message contained information about someone impersonating a police officer to try and lure her out of her room and dormitory. She was scared and reported this information, only to be told to ignore the messages, although the officer who received Lauren’s call did not report it. That day, Lauren McCluskey was shot by Rowland.
Further investigation into the University of Utah’s case showed that the campus police didn’t investigate the matter on time, and as a matter of fact, didn’t have enough training and knowledge about how to handle signs of domestic violence that McCluskey and Rowland displayed.
But the campus police wasn’t the only one who ignored the subtle signs. Lauren’s friends repeatedly reported the housing officials about Rowland manipulating and separating McCluskey from her friends and family members.
Ruth V. Watkins, The President of the University of Utah, commented on the case after the reviews and articles about Lauren’s death became public. She said that she couldn’t see any way or can’t offer a reason to believe that what happened could be prevented.
Of course, parents disagree. They say that the failure of the university’s staff (police department and housing officials) lead to this tragedy happening, and if their training and attention would’ve been sharper, Lauren would still be alive.

Lawsuit Coming Up

The law firm, representing Lauren’s parents wrote in the complaint directed to the US District Court “Their daughter’s death was a direct result of the university’s failure to respond to reports of stalking, abuse, intimidation, dating violence, and other dangerous and abusive behaviours prohibited under the Title IX.”
Although Watkins disagrees with the complaint statement, she shares the desire of McCluskeys to make the university campus safety number one priority.
The lawsuit also argues that McCluskey’s rights were violated under the 14th Amendment to the US Consitution. The amendment addresses the “gender stereotypes”, such as that “women overreact, “women are unreasonable,” women are untruthful when accusing someone and reporting abuse”.
With all the complaints piled up, McCluskeys are seeking $56 million compensation from the university. The money will go to the Lauren McCluskey’s Foundation to support charitable work in her name.


Marita Pilauri

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