Klocke v. Univ. of Texas, No. 18-10857 (5th Cir. 2019).
10/01/2019Thomas Klocke’s estate filed an appeal against the University of Texas at Arlington (“UTA”) for violations of Title IX. UTA moved for summary judgment.
Thomas Klocke and Nicholas Watson were enrolled in a summer class, when Watson reported Klocke to UTA, alleging Klocke insulted him about being gay. Subsequently, Student Conduct Officer Dan Moore began his 6-day investigation by interviewing people from the class. Because the professor and a few classmates confirmed Watson’s version of the events, Moore found Watson more credible. However, the classmate sitting closest to Watson and Klocke did not hear anything between the two, even though Watson accused Klocke of verbally insulting him. Twice, Klocke states he was “scared” of his accuser. Although Klocke did not provide detail about why he was scared, Moore did not investigate. Moore’s six-day investigation concluded that Klocke should be held responsible for harassment and gave him the following sanctions: disciplinary probation, where he could not attend class and a no-contact order between Klocke and Watson. One week later, Klocke committed suicide.
Klocke’s estate asserted a Title IX based on erroneous outcome alleging Moore’s decision was based on an acknowledged lack of evidence. Moore told the Dean of Students that he did not have enough information to keep Klocke out of class. Despite his failure to confirm Watson’s account, he told the Dean that he found Watson more credible than Klocke. The Court agreed with the school’s credibility assessment and deemed Moore’s record as “meaningful” because it included confirmed examples of how Klocke treated Watson.
Klocke’s estate also asserted that UTA allowed gender bias to affect the investigation. The estate argued that Watson, a gay student, received preferential treatment over Klocke, a straight student. The Court disagreed with Klocke, citing Wittmer v. Phillips, where the Fifth Circuit held that discrimination on the basis of sexuality was not sexual discrimination. Additionally, the Court found Klocke’s allegations of Watson’s flirtation minimal in comparison to Watson accusations, where he was told to “die” and was called other epithets. Thus, the Court found that it was reasonable for Moore to disregard the alleged sexual harassment issue brought by Klocke.
Finding there was no additional evidence to support an appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding of summary judgment in favor of UTA dismissing Klocke’s Title IX claim.