Vol. 19, Iss. 7
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company
All rights reserved
AT A GLANCE
A Review of This Month’s Lawsuits and Rulings
• Judge rules innocuous incident can’t
support retaliation suit .....................9
• Judge holds accused student did not get
• Judge decides expelled student received
adequate due process .....................10
• College entered into agreement to solve
online accessibility issues .................10
Policies and procedures
• OCR identies concerns with school’s
discrimination policy .......................11
Judge rules innocuous incident
can’t support retaliation suit
Case name: Farmer v. Troy University, No. 5:17-
CV-70 (E.D. N.C. 08/21/17).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, Eastern District
of North Carolina dismissed a suit against Troy
What it means: Title IX protects an employee
from reporting perceived misconduct only when
that employee reasonably believed he was reporting
activities prohibited by the act.
Summary: Sharrell Farmer was employed by Troy
University as a recruiter in its Fayetteville ofﬁce. In
May 2015, he complained to human resources that the
local manager and her assistant had discussed “penis
sizes of black and white men” with a student, and then
tauntingly suggested that the student exhibit his penis.
According to Farmer, word of his report apparently
got out because unnamed persons subsequently
engaged in retaliation by: (1) disciplining him with
a written warning, (2) suspending him, (3) changing
his schedule to be less favorable than that of other
employees who had not ﬁled discrimination allega-
tions, and (4) ﬁring him a few months later.
Farmer ﬁled a suit claiming retaliation in violation
of Title IX, and the university ﬁled a motion to dismiss.
The district judge explained that an employee was
protected by Title IX only if he reported activity that
he reasonably believed was prohibited by that act.
The judge acknowledged that the remarks reported by
Farmer were offensive and inap-
propriate, but ruled that they were
not sufﬁciently physically threat-
ening or humiliating to constitute
harassment under Title IX.
In addition, he ruled that
Farmer was not protected from
retaliation because he could not
have reasonably believed that he
was opposing anything prohib-
ited by Title IX when he complained about the local
The judge dismissed the suit. ■
Judge holds accused student
did not get fair treatment
Case name: Gulyas v. Appalachian State Univer-
sity, et al., No. 5:16-CV-00225 (W.D. N.C. 08/28/17).
Ruling: The U.S. District Court, Western District
of North Carolina refused to dismiss a suit against
Appalachian State University.
What it means: While due process does not
require absolute neutrality in a student’s disciplinary
proceedings, a line is crossed when the administra-
tion directs the investigation to obtain a conviction
instead of the truth.
Summary: After Appalachian State University
students Frank Gulyas and Melissa Costa lived in
the same dormitory building for a while in 2014,
they began an exclusive dating relationship.
One evening in February 2015, Costa learned that a
female was staying with Gulyas in his dorm room. She
allegedly entered his dorm room that night and yelled at
him. She also purportedly cursed at Gulyas and hit him.
After that night, the two continued to have a spo-
radic relationship for a few weeks. However, Gulyas
entered Costa’s dorm room in March to fully end
Two days later, Costa ﬁled a criminal trespassing
charge against him. She also ﬁled a motion for a protec-
tive order, alleging that Gulyas had threatened to kill her.
Costa also ﬁled a complaint with Appalachian
State accusing Gulyas of harassment, unauthorized
entry into her room, making threats, and causing
This regular feature
court or agency
records of inter-
est to academic
Lawsuit court records are summarized
by Richard H. Willits, Esq.
OCR rulings are summarized by Aileen Gelpi, Esq.