The parents of slain track star Lauren McCluskey filed a lawsuit against the University of Utah in state court Monday, alleging that the school denied their daughter equal protection under the law and discriminated against her because she was a woman.
The McCluskeys filed a separate lawsuit in federal court last June.
Lauren McCluskey, 21, was fatally shot outside her campus dorm on Oct. 22, 2018, by Melvin Rowland, a 37-year-old registered sex offender on parole whom she had briefly dated. He died by suicide hours later.
The U. student had contacted campus police several times in the weeks before her death to report harassment — and his threats to release compromising photos of her — after ending their relationship on Oct. 9. Many of those concerns were not taken seriously, independent investigators found.
The lawsuit filed Monday in 3rd District Court alleges a pattern of discrimination and dismissiveness among university officials led to her death.
They ignored her requests for help, the McCluskeys allege, based on gender stereotypes and indifference to “the risks that women experience when they are suffering from domestic violence,” the lawsuit states.
The school was negligent when it did not respond in a “timely manner” to her complaints and did not investigate the allegations against Rowland, including by not checking his parole status or banning him from campus, the complaint continues.
“Lauren’s complaints were treated dismissively because of the University’s practice and policy of ignoring and disbelieving women, deliberate indifference to domestic violence that disproportionately affects women, its failure to competently investigate her complaints and those of others and its failure to protect her based on outdated, dangerous, and misogynistic attitudes toward women,” it continues.
Her parents are seeking $56 million in damages as part of the lawsuit, which names the Department of Housing and Residential Education, the University Department of Public Safety and former University of Utah Police Chief Dale Brophy, among others.
The university has asked a judge to dismiss the McCluskeys’ federal complaint, arguing that Lauren’s killer wasn’t a school employee or student and had no connection to the university, so it is not responsible for his actions. The McCluskeys agreed to engage in mediation talks with the U. aimed at a settlement but said last month that those conversations with were ultimately “unsuccessful.”