Family Sues Stanford After Student Who Spilled Coffee on Friend’s Alleged Rapist Is Found Dead

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Katie Meyer at the 2019 NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship.
The family of the late Katie Meyer, former Stanford University star football captain, is suing the university for wrongful death months after Meyer committed suicide in her dorm room in February this year. Last week, Santa Clara County ruled that "there was no evidence of foul play and Meyer's death was determined to be self-inflicted," prompting Meyer's family to file a lawsuit Wednesday, Sports Illustrated reported.
Meyer's death came almost immediately after she received notification that she was facing disciplinary action over an incident in which she spilled coffee on a soccer player who allegedly raped her underage teammate. According to an email Meyer received the evening of her death, it could put her diploma on hold and also jeopardize her position as a student and athlete at the school.
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According to her family's lawsuit, obtained by Sports Illustrated, "the action leading up to [Meyer's] death began and ended at Stanford University." The lawsuit calls the disciplinary action against her "reckless" and alleges that she " caused Katie to have an acute stress response that impulsively led to her suicide".
USA Today, which also received the lawsuit, reports that Meyer's family says her "suicide was carried out without planning and solely in response to the shocking and deeply distressing information she received from Stanford while she was alone in her room." without any support or resources". The lawsuit further alleges that Meyer responded to the email informing her of the charges against her by "expressing how 'shocked and disturbed' she was," but "Stanford employees made no effort to check on Katie's welfare". The lawsuit names the school board of trustees, the president, the deans and vice deans, the vice provost and the general counsel as defendants.
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The university has responded to the family's lawsuit by denying any responsibility for her death. "The Stanford community continues to mourn Katie's tragic death and we join her family in the unimaginable pain that Katie's death has caused them. However, we strongly disagree with any claim that the university is responsible for her death," Dee Mostofi said in a statement to People last week.
Mostofi confirmed that the Stanford Office of Community Standards (OCS) "received a complaint regarding alleged conduct by Katie that resulted in bodily harm" and "has initiated an investigation into that allegation." That review prompted the OCS to set up a hearing about Meyer's conduct and possible disciplinary action, Mostofi said, but nonetheless, Meyer was "offered a counselor to work with her throughout the process and was told she could have a support person of her choice." with her in every meeting or conversation with OCS.”
Meyer and her teammates at the 2019 NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship.
Meyer's family's legal team argues in a statement to SI that her death was a tragic reflection of broader issues with the school's "egregious and reckless mishandling of its disciplinary process." The statement cited an assessment by a community committee at the school called Committee 10, which called the school's disciplinary process "overly punitive" and harmful to its students.
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"Through this litigation, we will not only seek justice for Katie, but also ensure that the necessary changes are made to help protect Stanford students and provide safeguards when students need assistance," the statement continued.
It cannot be overstated that Meyer died shortly after being charged with retaliating against a student who allegedly raped a minor on her team. The unfair treatment Meyer faced is the latest in the university's history of protecting attackers at the expense of rape victims. Chanel Miller, who was attacked by former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, said the university did not offer her enough resources and support after the attack. Around the same time that Turner was found guilty of sexual assault, the school faced a separate lawsuit for allowing a student known to have sexually assaulted four other students to graduate.
Stanford's response to criticism of its campus sexual assault handling has largely been to restrict alcohol and discourage students from walking dark, unlit campus pathways at night. The school's punishment of Meyer, which her family says led to her death, shows how little has changed over the years.
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