A dentistry student at Meharry Medical College is suing the school after he claimed he was retaliated against for reporting a sexual assault.
In a federal lawsuit filed last week, student Payton Thomas claims a female professor assaulted him in an auxiliary room of the dentistry clinic at the college in September 2011. The alleged victim, then working as a student doctor, had to “physically and verbally repel” the faculty member.
The faculty member then instructed Thomas not to say anything about the alleged “inappropriate sexual touching.” In April, as Thomas prepared to graduate, he approached his alleged assailant for academic reasons. She told him that he wasn’t going to graduate, the lawsuit claims.
Fearing retaliation, Thomas filed a written complaint to the college about the sexual assault, and a short time later Meharry School of Dentistry Dean Janet Southerland called a special committee meeting regarding Thomas’ academic standing.
The committee voted to require him to repeat a year of school due to an absence from November 2011 to February 2012. Thomas refuted the absence and said he has completed all required academic and clinical work.
The student doctor claims he appealed to Meharry president Wayne Riley but didn’t receive a response.
Another committee met in August and found Thomas guilty of “fraudulent and unethical” conduct, according to the suit.
Thomas’ attorney, Bob Lynch, wrote to Meharry on Aug. 28 about the allegations and asked for a response by Sept. 6, but when the school didn’t respond he filed suit in U.S. District Court of Middle Tennessee.
The lawsuit claims Meharry violated the student’s rights under Title IX as well as the Tennessee Human Rights Act because he was working as an employee of the school.
The suit asks for $2 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages.
Lynch had no comment on the case.
Meharry declined to comment on the matter through legal counsel.