- Associated Press - Thursday, September 17, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - A private liberal arts college said Thursday it would abide by an order from federal judge to reinstate a student who was expelled over allegations of sexual misconduct that occurred during his junior year while he was studying abroad.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha issued the order late Wednesday, the same day classes began at Middlebury College.

In his order, Murtha noted that the Middlebury student, identified in court papers as John Doe, was cleared of wrongdoing by the School for International Training in Brattleboro, which sponsored the study abroad program, and continued his studies at Middlebury last spring. The court documents don’t say where he was studying abroad.

The order for a preliminary injunction said Doe would suffer irreparable harm if expelled before his senior year and unable to complete his education. He has been offered an $85,000-a-year job after graduation next spring.

“This case presents a unique situation where plaintiff was exonerated of the charge of sexual assault by one U.S. institution following an investigation and hearing, allowed to continue his studies the next term, and subsequently determined by his college following a second investigation of the same allegation to have committed sexual assault, after which he was expelled,” the order said.

The complainant was identified in court papers as Jane Doe. According to the papers, John Doe and Jane Doe were studying abroad last Nov. 7 when they and another woman decided to sleep together in the same bed.

John Doe said Jane Doe initiated sexual contact that ended when the other woman left the room, according to the papers.

Two days later, Jane Doe filed a complaint with the School for International Training. Their investigation, completed in December, exonerated John Doe.

Murtha wrote that Jane Doe was unhappy with the school’s ruling and intended to file a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. In January, Middlebury decided to look into the situation.

Middlebury said in a statement Thursday that its five-month investigation found John Doe responsible for a sexual assault based on documents, physical evidence and other information it received from the student who made the report. It also said concerns were raised about the study abroad program’s investigation.

Doe sued Aug. 28 after he was expelled and had exhausted the appeals process at Middlebury.

The college said that it believed the court erred in its interpretation of the facts and the law and that it was “deeply disappointed” by the order to re-enroll Doe for the fall semester.

“We are considering our legal options, but at this time we are obliged to comply with the court’s order,” the statement said.

The School for International Training didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Murtha wrote in his order that if Middlebury continued its investigation and determined Doe’s expulsion was warranted, the school could prevent him from graduating or could revoke his degree.

Murtha’s ruling said Doe was billed for the fall semester, given a room assignment and listed as an active student enrolled in classes as of last week.

Doe’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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