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Morehouse College ignored sexual harassment, lawsuit says

Main entrance to Morehouse College
Main entrance to Morehouse College

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC FILE PHOTO

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC FILE PHOTO

Three students have filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Morehouse College and several past and present administrators, accusing them of ignoring their complaints of unwanted sexual advances and comments they say were made by two officials at the Atlanta school.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Fulton County Superior Court, says the officials used crude language, sometimes in the presence of other students, to urge the students at the all male school to “come out” as gay. In one instance, an official kissed the student’s stomach and tried to remove his pants and underwear, according to the lawsuit complaint.

Morehouse administrators were aware of some of the complaints, but ignored the allegations and took no disciplinary action, the lawsuit says. The college, the lawsuit says, did not investigate one of the student’s complaints until last year, when he posted videos about his claims on Twitter. The videos by the student, Michael Key, were viewed more than 90,000 times in the first 24 hours after being posted.

Key, who is identified in the lawsuit complaint, discussed his concerns at a news conference with his attorneys a few days later. The two other students listed as plaintiffs were not identified in the lawsuit complaint.

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“For Plaintiffs, Morehouse College has become a sexually hostile environment where their perpetrators, continued to remain on campus without any limitations or restrictions after the repeated complaints and attempts to exercise their victim’s rights under Title IX and Defendant Morehouse’s own policies,” the attorneys, Tiffany M. Simmons and Corey Martin, wrote in their lawsuit complaint.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law created to prevent discrimination and harassment in schools.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Morehouse declined comment, saying it cannot discuss pending litigation.

“The safety and well-being of Morehouse College students is of the utmost importance to us, and we will continue to cooperate with the appropriate parties throughout the legal process,” the college said in a statement.