Megan Rondini’s lawyers are now suing the University of Alabama for ‘deliberately’ mishandling her rape investigation
‘UA subjected Megan to discrimination which ultimately led to her loss of life’
The lawyers representing Megan Rondini, the student who took her own life after reporting her rape, are now suing the University of Alabama.
They already filed against local law enforcement officials for deliberately botching the investigation into Megan's attack, but have just expanded the lawsuit to include the university for being "deliberately indifferent to Megan’s complaints of rape."
In the amended complaint sent to The Tab, Megan's lawyers paint a bleak picture of the University of Alabama, who they accuse of failing to investigate Megan's report and protecting her, dismissing her increasingly desperate cries for help for weeks at a time, and ignoring her requests for help transferring school.
According to the lawsuit, this adds up to The University of Alabama violating Title IX and breaching the American Disabilities Act.
Megan's case came to light in a shocking report published by BuzzFeed last month. It described how Megan said she was raped by TJ "Sweet T" Bunn, the son of a prominent Tuscaloosa family with ties to the University of Alabama – and then failed by local police, her hospital and her college administrators who did not properly investigate her case.
Details of the police's and hospital's alleged faults have already emerged – but the full picture of how Megan's school let her down have just recently been described in the complaint.
The lawsuit says multiple staff members ranging from Title IX Co-ordinator Beth Howard to University President Stuart Bell "engaged in retaliatory behavior against Megan because of her complaint."
They also failed to investigate her complaint and to protect her by banning TJ Bunn from coming to the college, even though Megan was "frightened of seeing him on campus."
It even claims that one of her courses required her to attend a barbecue at her alleged rapist's house. Bunn is known in Tuscaloosa as a "big game hunter," and hosted an event as part of the Habitat for Humanity class.
"Instead of inquiring into the barbecue or prohibiting Defendant Bunn from hosting the event, Beth Howard [Title IX coordinator] 'assisted' Megan in dropping the Honors course," says the lawsuit. "Because of Title IX's repeated failures, Megan was deprived of the educational opportunity of completing this required course."
It has already been revealed how after reporting her situation to the university's Women and Gender Resource Center, she was assigned counselor Kathy Echols, who knew TJ Bunn. Only after interviewing Megan did Echols notify her, which made the student feel "enormously betrayed."
"She greatly regretted revealing the details of her assault to Echols," says the lawsuit. "She was nearly hysterical when she left Echols' office."
This was typical of Megan's experiences navigating the University of Alabama's mental health services, according to the complaint. Another therapist, Cara Blakes, refused to see Megan unless she took anxiety medication – which Maxwell says constitutes a violation of the American Disabilities Act.
Megan was additionally "forced to wait several weeks before any professional examined her" at the Counseling Center, while the Student Health Center "offered no assistance" in securing an emergency appointment.
After Megan decided to move to a school closer to home, the lawsuit describes how the University of Alabama ignored her requests for help.
"Megan and her parents contacted Beth Howard on multiple occasions to finalize Megan’s withdrawal and to obtain a letter of good standing from UA," it says. [Title IX Coordinator Beth] Howard failed to provide the requested letter for over seven weeks."
Additional emails from her parents for Howard to send the letter – which was needed for Megan's school transfer – went unnoticed from Alabama President Stuart Bell and Provost Jennifer Greer. It was only when Megan's mother called the Title IX Office to explain they were hiring an attorney, the lawsuit notes, that Howard replied with the letter. It took her two months.
It's worth pointing out the original complaint filed suit against specific members of university staff. The amended complaint is against the University of Alabama as a whole.
Megan's lawyer explains that it was a result of her treatment by the university that led her to the tragic conclusion that "her injuries were permanent, and that she could never recover."
He added: "UA subjected Megan to discrimination by denying her full access to equal education and health services, including the enjoyment of benefits of a service, program or activity conducted by the university which ultimately led to her loss of life."
It finally notes on the night of Megan's suicide, TJ Bunn was arrested at around 6:20 a.m. for driving under the influence in Tuscaloosa.
In response to the allegations of the lawsuit, a spokesperson from the university told us:
"The University has been made aware that the lawsuit concerning the alleged sexual assault against Megan Rondini has been amended. Not surprisingly, the plaintiffs’ lawyers have dropped their claims against our Title IX coordinator and our former counselor. We will vigorously defend the new claims against the University and the president. Despite Megan’s reported assault occurring off-campus and not involving allegations against a University employee or student, the University’s Title IX office and our Women and Gender Resource Center handled their responsibilities with care at all times, keeping Megan’s wellbeing as their absolute highest priority from the moment they became aware of the alleged assault.
"Megan’s death is a tragedy. Our hearts go out to her loved ones who grieve her loss alongside our University family. Out of respect to Megan, the Rondini family, and the judicial process, the University does not intend to comment further on the substance of the lawsuit’s allegations."
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