Former Title IX coordinator settles two lawsuits against Iowa State for $125,000


Hannah Olson

Beardshear Hall from Central Campus on Sept. 19.

K. Rambo

Former Title IX coordinator Robinette Kelley and Iowa State have settled two lawsuits in which Kelley claimed Iowa State discriminated and retaliated against her.

Kelley claimed in her lawsuits, which were settled for $125,000,  that some procedures at Iowa State violated Title IX and that she was kept from doing her job as the Title IX coordinator, which included investigating and responding to sexual assaults.

Kelley also said she was discriminated against because she was a woman of color. One lawsuit, which was in federal court, was for alleged Title IX violations. The suit in state court alleged violations of the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

Kelley claimed she was told she was being “too litigious” in her investigations.

John McCarroll, executive director of University Relations, issued a statement to the Daily on Tuesday.

“The State Appeal Board approved a settlement agreement to resolve the litigation in both state and federal court filed by Robinette Kelley against Iowa State University,” the statement said.

“Earlier this year, in ruling on Iowa State’s motion to dismiss, the federal court substantially narrowed Ms. Kelley’s claims,” the statement said. “This settlement resolves the remaining claims in the federal case and the similar claims asserted in the case filed by Ms. Kelley in the Iowa State District Court.  

“In the settlement papers, the parties confirm that the settlement does not indicate any wrongdoing by either party,” the statement said. “The university specifically denies that it discriminated or retaliated against Ms. Kelley in any way.

“The settlement allows both the university and Ms. Kelley to move forward in a more positive way while avoiding the significant costs associated with further litigation,” the statement said.

Kelley’s attorney, Thomas Newkirk, told the Daily the lawsuits were filed in an effort to create positive change.

“Dr. Kelley was the Title IX coordinator responding to those issues,” Newkirk said. “Other young women have been assaulted themselves, so these lawsuits together are really an attempt to raise awareness regarding better ways to handle systemic problems with sexual assault on college campuses.”

Newkirk said part of the reason his clients, both Taylor Niesen and Kelley, have recently reached settlements with Iowa State is because they believe Iowa State is listening to their complaints and attempting to improve their practices moving forward.  

Kelley claims Iowa State denied her the resources necessary to do her job in a manner consistent with federal guidelines. Kelley claims administrators intentionally encouraged people to avoid reporting sexual misconduct to Kelley.

“ISU administrators began to routinely exclude Ms. Kelley from processing complaints that implicated state and federal civil rights laws, including Title IX, that should have been investigated by Ms. Kelley and instead re-directed Title IX matters to the Dean of Students office,” the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that administration at Iowa State, contrary to federal guidelines, acted directly against the suggestions of Kelley when investigating reported sexual misconduct at Iowa State.

Kelley filed an additional suit in Polk County on Nov. 20, 2017, alleging violations of the Iowa Civil Rights Act, claiming she faced discrimination during her employment because of her race and gender.

The lawsuit alleges she was told she was to be “the face” of equal opportunity by then-chief of staff Miles Lackey, a statement, Kelley claims, that indicated she was not to assume any actual authority.

“Ms. Kelley soon learned that Lackey’s directive to be “the face” of equal opportunity on campus meant that Iowa State University expected her to be seen but not heard,” the lawsuit reads.