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The parents of Katie Meyer, the former Stanford soccer goalie who killed herself in February at the age of 21, are suing the university for wrongful death, according to a copy of the civil complaint obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
At the time Meyer killed himself, he was facing disciplinary action for allegedly spilling coffee on a Stanford football player in August while riding his bike, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
The soccer player allegedly sexually assaulted a then-underage female soccer player on the Stanford women’s soccer team that Meyer served as captain of, according to the complaint.
Meyer’s father, Steve, previously told USA TODAY Sports that the disciplinary issue arose when Katie Meyer stood up for a teammate.
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On the evening of February 28, the night of Meyer’s death, Stanford “negligently and “recklessly” sent her a formal written notice accusing her of a “Fundamental Rule Violation by Spilling Coffee on Another Student,” according to the complaint. .
“Stanford’s after-hours disciplinary charge, and the reckless nature and manner in which Katie was subjected, caused Katie to suffer an acute stress reaction that led to her impulsive suicide,” the complaint states. “Katie’s suicide was completed without planning and solely in response to the shocking and deeply distressing information she received from Stanford while she was alone in her room with no support or resources.”
In addition to wrongful death, the lawsuit also accuses Stanford of negligence inflicting emotional distress and related actions.
Stanford disagrees that it is responsible for Meyer’s death, but has not seen the formal complaint filed by Meyer’s parents, said Dee Mostofi, the university’s associate vice president for external communications.
“The Stanford community continues to mourn Katie’s tragic death and we stand in solidarity with her family in the unimaginable pain Katie’s death has caused them,” Mostofi told USA TODAY Sports via email. “However, we do not agree with any claim that the university is responsible for her death.”
The formal disciplinary charge against Meyer resulted in the suspension of her diploma three months before her scheduled graduation and threatened her status as a Stanford student and, among other things, captain and member of the soccer team she helped lead to the national championship in 2019. .
Meyer received the letter after 7 p.m., at which time Stanford’s Psychiatric and Counseling Services were also closed, according to the complaint.
“Katie, sitting alone in her bedroom, when it was dark outside, immediately responded to the email expressing how ‘shocked and distraught’ she was at being accused and threatened with expulsion from the university,” the complaint states. “Stanford did not respond to Katie’s distressed expression, instead ignoring it and scheduling a meeting 3 days later via email. No effort was made by Stanford employees to check on Katie’s well-being, whether through a simple phone call or an in-person wellness check.”
In November 2021, according to the complaint, Meyer expressed her despair to Stanford employees when she said she had “been afraid for months that my clumsiness would ruin my chances of leaving Stanford on a good note” and that she was experiencing anxiety during the process. disciplinary.
Mostofi, the Stanford spokesman, said the head of the Office of Community Standards (OCS) contacted Meyer “several days” before the former goalkeeper received written notice of a possible violation of the community standards.
“It gave Katie until that date to provide more information for her consideration,” Mostofi said. “Katie provided no information and was informed by OCS on the evening of February 28 that the matter would proceed to a hearing.”
The alleged incident involving Meyer that triggered the disciplinary process involved physical injuries, according to Mostofi.
“Stanford’s Office of Community Standards received a complaint about Katie’s alleged behavior that resulted in physical injury,” Mostofi wrote, “and as is office practice, initiated a review of that allegation. After extensive investigation and opportunity for both parties to provide information, it was found that a high threshold was met for the matter to proceed to a hearing.
Mostofi did not immediately respond to a question about the severity of the physical injury.
In the university’s emailed correspondence to Meyer on February 28, Mostofi said that Meyer “was explicitly told that this was not a finding that she did anything wrong, and OCS offered to meet with her to discuss the matter if he so wished”. Mostofi, Meyer was also given a number to call for immediate support and specifically told that this resource was available to her 24/7.
“Shortly after receiving that email, Katie wrote to OCS staff and received a response within the hour,” Mostofi said. from a previous appointment.”
The soccer player, who was not identified by name in the lawsuit, indicated throughout the disciplinary process that he would like to “make amends” and did not want any punishment that would “impact” Meyer’s life, according to the complaint.
Lisa Caldera, Dean of Residential Education, filed the complaint against Meyer with Stanford’s Office of Community Standards, according to the lawsuit, which says Meyer was charged on the last possible day. A charge must be filed within six months of the occurrence and the spilled coffee occurred on Aug. 28, 2021, according to the complaint.
Caldera and Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne are among those charged.
The lawsuit says Stanford failed to initiate any significant Title IX or OCS disciplinary proceedings for the football player even though the school was required to fire the player from the team under its own policies that promised zero tolerance for sexual violence.
Mostofi also addressed a matter involving a Stanford football player, though he did not confirm that he was the player involved in the disciplinary charge against Meyer. The Stanford spokesperson said that “the allegation that Stanford failed to address the claim that a football player kissed one of Katie’s football teammates without her permission is inaccurate.
“In fact, it is the university that initially reported this claim to Stanford’s Title IX office and to the police. However, the Title IX office did not pursue the matter as the criteria for moving forward with an investigation were not met.
“Stanford will address any other misrepresentations or inaccuracies found in the filed complaint once it has received a copy.”
In a statement released through their lawyer, Meyer’s parents, Steve and Gina, said: “We are deeply concerned and disappointed with what we have learned since his passing and have no choice but to move forward with litigation to achieve justice for Katie and protect the future”. Additionally, we are working to pursue systemic changes to improve the safety and support of Stanford students currently on campus and those who will enroll in the future through our foundation, Katie’s Save.”