Father Sues UT Over Son’s Suicide That Followed Sex Harassment Accusation
The father of a male student who committed suicide after he was accused of sexual harassment by a classmate at the University of Texas has filed a lawsuit against the school for infringing on his son’s Title IX liberties.
Thomas Klocke, a straight male student at UT at Arlington, committed suicide June 2, 2016, after he was punished for allegedly typing homophobic slurs into his computer screen in a class that May. Klocke had previously denied the allegation, and administrative investigators had acknowledged there was no hard evidence to indicate he had perpetrated the harassment.
His father filed a lawsuit April 4 against UT at Arlington for infringing on his Title IX liberties and against his son’s accuser, Nicholas Matthew Watson, for “false and defamatory publication” of the accusations.
Watson alleged that Klocke talked about “privilege” during a class and then proceeded to type “gays should die” into the search bar of his computer’s Internet browser, reports Watchdog.org. He asserts that when he responded by typing “I’m gay” on his own computer, Klocke pretended to yawn and muttered: “Well, then you’re a faggot.”
Watson alleged that Klocke then suggested he kill himself when Watson told him to leave the class.
Klocke, on the other hand, alleged that Watson made unwanted sexual advances on him, which Klocke said he rebuffed. Watson then fabricated the sexual harassment charge out of fear he himself could face a similar charge, Klocke said.
UTA banned Klocke from the class, refused to tell him his accuser’s name, and told him he could not reach out to any of his former classmates, ostensibly preventing him from finding witnesses to affirm his account of events. The school eventually put Klocke on disciplinary probation, which someone then told the student could affect his chances of getting into grad school, which Klocke had already prepared to attend.
A short time later, Klocke shot himself fatally in the head.
His father asserts in the lawsuit that Watson violated UTA’s policies concerning sexual misconduct by making his complaint to Heather Snow, the school’s Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, who Watson apparently knew, when the policies state that complaints “should be made to the Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Coordinators.”
“The important case … illustrates just how quickly and arbitrarily a college can act, leading to the most tragic outcome from the unimaginable stress and pain that an unfairly treated, accused student can suffer,” Kenneth Chaiken, an attorney for Klocke’s father, told Watchdog.org. “It also serves to underscore why reforms in the campus disciplinary process are so necessary, as recently recommended by the American College of Trial Lawyers, and why accountability through the judicial process may help to promote those reforms.”
UTA did not respond to a request for comment from Watchdog.org
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