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St. John's student drops suit over punishment

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn.—St. John's University and a student who was suspended for sexual misconduct have agreed to dismiss a lawsuit that alleged he was unfairly punished.

Aaron Wildenborg sued St. John's and the College of St. Benedict in October 2016 after the coordinate schools suspended him for two years for a sexual encounter with a St. Benedict student.

Wildenborg sought a clear disciplinary record, a return to school and the restoration of more than $50,000 in scholarships, plus cash damages.

Both parties agreed to dismiss the case last week with no exchange of money, court records show. The case file gives no information about additional terms of the dismissal, and attorneys and a spokesman for the schools did not return requests for comment Monday.

According to Wildenborg's complaint, a female classmate led him back to her dorm after partying on Halloween night, 2015.

As they kissed, he said he asked, "Do you consent to this?" She said she did, and they removed each other's clothes. The woman then performed sex acts on Wildenborg, he said.

The next day, the woman asked him by text whether they'd had sex and said she was intoxicated. She filed a formal complaint with the schools five months later.

The woman's friends told a school investigator she had been "pretty drunk" that night from alcoholic lemonade and shots of vodka.

A disciplinary panel concluded she was too intoxicated to consent to sex and kicked Wildenborg out of school for two years, giving the woman time to graduate before he'd return.

Wildenborg, who had been drinking too, said he saw no signs the woman was intoxicated.

Wildenborg's lawsuit accused the schools of violating the federal Title IX law by discriminating against him on the basis of sex.

Considering the woman performed sex acts on him, he said, his punishment "is so backwards and irrational that it can only be explained by discriminatory gender bias against males involving allegations of sexual assault."

The federal government since 2011 has required colleges to investigate sexual misconduct as an education matter, independent of any criminal proceeding. Colleges also were told to use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, which in Wildenborg's case meant that he "more likely than not" violated the policy.

Last fall, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said colleges may choose to use the "clear and convincing" evidentiary standard instead.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service