University of Idaho Law Students File Lawsuit Alleging Discrimination and Hostile Environment

MOSCOW, Idaho — Three students at the University of Idaho College of Law have recently left the state due to alleged discrimination they faced throughout their enrollment, according to a federal lawsuit. The lawsuit, which was filed initially in September and then again in December, claims that the students, who identify as LGBTQ+ and come from diverse backgrounds, experienced hostility, racial aggressions, and a lack of response from the school in addressing their discrimination complaints.

The lawsuit names the university, the state board of education, university President Scott Green, the dean of the law school, a professor, and a former law student as defendants, alleging violations of Title IX. One of the plaintiffs, referred to as “John” in the lawsuit, organized a mixer at his home in Moscow, Idaho in 2021 to connect with fellow law students. Some attendees belonged to the Christian Legal Society, an advocacy chapter at the university that supports anti-abortion practices, religious freedom, and traditional Christian views on marriage and sexual conduct.

During the gathering, John was confronted in his kitchen by a student who used an offensive slur targeted at LGBTQ+ individuals, as stated in the lawsuit. Despite not being open about his sexuality at the time, John reported the incident to the school, which prompted an investigation by the Office of Civil Rights and Investigations. However, John also claimed to have faced intimidation from other Christian Legal Society members to drop the complaint, causing him to fear for his safety.

Another plaintiff, known as “Kelly,” who is both Black and LGBTQ+, experienced multiple racist comments during orientation in 2021, according to the lawsuit. Kelly reported these incidents to the school, but no follow-up was provided. Additionally, Kelly participated in a “Moment of Community” event held in response to a slur written on a whiteboard at the university’s Boise campus. The event, which was intended to support LGBTQ+ students, was attended by Christian Legal Society members who Kelly and another plaintiff, “Jane,” felt were not genuinely supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

According to the lawsuit, Jane confronted a member of the Christian Legal Society about their presence at the event, given the society’s public condemnation of the LGBTQ+ community. The confrontation allegedly resulted in the three students being met with hostility, including claims that they had no rights and were destined for hell. Jane also received a menacing note from the president of the Christian Legal Society, causing her to experience a panic attack.

The lawsuit states that the three students reported the incidents and eventually the university issued a no-contact order against the Christian Legal Society members involved. However, the Christian Legal Society students retaliated by suing the school, asserting that their free speech rights had been violated. In a subsequent ruling, a judge required the university to rescind the no-contact order and awarded $90,000 to the Christian Legal Society students and their professor.

As a result of the alleged discrimination, Jane left the law school and relocated to Washington to pursue her legal education. Kelly, diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder following the incidents, began taking classes remotely from her home in Washington. John, who still felt unsafe around certain individuals, requested permission to attend classes online due to health concerns and eventually moved to Arizona, where he was allowed to participate remotely in the “Student in Practice” program.

The University of Idaho declined to comment on the pending litigation, citing its policy. Steven McFarland, the director for the Center of Law and Religious Freedom at the Christian Legal Society, emphasized the importance of respecting the rights of all students, including the Christian Legal Society chapter. Notably, this is not the first time the University of Idaho College of Law has faced discrimination accusations. In 2019, Shaakirrah Sanders, the school’s first Black woman full professor, filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging discriminatory conduct and retaliation. A settlement of $750,000 was reached between Sanders and the school in September 2022.

The University of Idaho College of Law is currently facing a federal lawsuit brought by three students alleging discrimination. The students, who identify as LGBTQ+ and come from diverse backgrounds, claim to have experienced hostility, racial aggressions, and a lack of response from the school. The lawsuit names multiple defendants, including university President Scott Green and the dean of the law school. One plaintiff reported being subjected to a homophobic slur at a mixer, while another experienced racist comments and felt alienated by classmates. The students reported the incidents, but no significant action was taken by the school. As a result, the students left the law school, with one relocating to Washington and another attending classes remotely due to mental health concerns. The University of Idaho declined to comment on the pending litigation. Previous complaints of discrimination have also been made against the College of Law, highlighting ongoing challenges within the institution.