After Alleged Rape, Student-Athlete Sues School for Title IX Violations

Sep 24, 2004

A student-athlete at Western New Mexico University has filed suit against the WNMU Board of Regents, alleging that the Board violated Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, and that there was a breach of contract and breach of implied covenants of good faith and fair dealings.
Jessica Nicole Ruegsegger, through Silver City, N.M., attorney Sherry Tippet, also named Dr. John E. Counts, University President, and Dr. Phillip Farren, Vice-President of Student Affairs as defendants in the suit.
The impetus for the legal action was an incident that occurred on April 13 when Ruegsegger, who was team captain for school’s basketball team, was allegedly raped by two other WNMU students.
In July, Deputy Chief District Attorney Susan Riedel advised the Office of the 6th Judicial District Attorney that no charges should be filed in the case.
Shortly after Riedel’s announcement, Tippet filed a tort claim notice, stating her client’s intent to sue the university. In her notice, which was served on Counts, Tippet alleged that her client suffered “intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract for failure to follow university policies and procedures, (and) breach of covenants of good faith and fair dealing.”
In the letter, which was sent to the Albuquerque law firm of Sutin, Thayer and Browne – the attorneys for WNMU, Tippett alleged that in an April 28 meeting with Farren, she and her client were told that since alcohol had been consumed by the alleged victim and the male students, the university would not take “any specific disciplinary action in this matter.”
Further, Tippett charged that the university did not act promptly when advised of the incident, and “among other oversights, did not recommend counseling for her client, did not recommend going to police, and failed to convene a three-person sexual assault crisis team in accordance with university policy.” She further alleged that the university “was supposed to implement a crisis team for any sexual assault or alleged sexual assault.”
Tippet followed the above notice, or letter, with an actual suit on August 26, in which she alleged that the “defendants’ deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s assault and failure to take action resulted in a hostile environment that deprived Plaintiff of access to educational opportunities and benefits provided by the school.”
The school has steadfastly declined comment, citing “privacy concerns.”


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