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Lawsuit alleges university leaked confidential records to undermine Title IX bill

By: - March 17, 2021 8:05 pm
Exterior Missouri State Capitol building

Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City. (Photo by ©Walter Bibikow)

A lawsuit filed last month in St. Louis alleges Washington University leaked confidential information about an expelled student in order to undermine a legislative push to change how Missouri colleges handle cases of sexual assault and harassment. 

The lawsuit, which was first reported by the St. Louis Business Journal, lists as its plaintiff “John Doe.” He’s described as a former student at Washington University in St. Louis who was expelled for allegedly harassing another student in violation of the federal Title IX law, which bars sexual discrimination in education.

After he was expelled, the lawsuit says, his father began lobbying Missouri lawmakers in support of bills aimed at shifting the balance of rights and protections in Title IX cases away from the accuser and toward the accused.

The bills in question never passed. Lawmakers set them aside after The Kansas City Star revealed lobbyist Richard McIntosh began pushing for them after his son was expelled from Washington University through the school’s Title IX process.

Under the proposed legislation, which records revealed McIntosh helped write, his son’s expulsion could have been retroactively appealed to the Administrative Hearing Commission — where his mother and McIntosh’s wife, Audrey Hanson McIntosh, is the presiding and managing commissioner.

McIntosh also founded a nonprofit to bankroll his legislative push. Funded largely by St. Louis billionaire David Steward, a McIntosh client, the nonprofit paid for polling, advertising and 29 lobbyists to advocate for the Title IX changes.

The lawsuit claims Washington University, along with its lobbyist and media consultant, shared the plaintiff’s “personal, private and confidential data” with legislators and the media, including The Star.

Yet The Star’s 2019 report revealing McIntosh’s motivation for pushing the changes was based on an interview with state Rep. Peggy McGaugh, a Republican from Carrollton who told a reporter that McIntosh had informed her about his son’s expulsion from Washington University. 

Then-Sen. Gary Romine, who sponsored a version of McIntosh’s bill, told The Star at the time that he learned of the lobbyist’s personal stake in the legislation after he’d introduced the bill. 

“The publication of Plaintiff John Doe’s confidential student records” the lawsuit says, “in violation of law and the University policy for the University’s political gain has caused and continues to cause harm to Plaintiff John Doe.”

In a 2019 interview with the conspiracy-theory website Breitbart, McIntosh said his son was accused of sexual assault by a former girlfriend. He said his son was denied due process, which inspired his push for legislative changes to Title IX.

(Editor’s note: Jason Hancock was employed as a reporter by The Star from 2012 until 2020.)

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Jason Hancock
Jason Hancock

Jason Hancock has been writing about Missouri since 2011, most recently as lead political reporter for The Kansas City Star. He has spent nearly two decades covering politics and policy for news organizations across the Midwest, and has a track record of exposing government wrongdoing and holding elected officials accountable.