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Stephen F. Austin University reaches settlement with 6 students in lawsuit

The lawsuit stems from an incident in which the six students were accused of filing a false report against a Black student.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Stephen F. Austin University has reached a settlement in a lawsuit brought on by six students who claimed the school violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process.

The lawsuit stems from an incident in which the six students were accused of filing a false report against a Black student.

The settlement was announced Thursday morning prior to a scheduled hearing.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above is from the report of the students filing the lawsuit.

"This is a case about procedural due process and the truth," the lawsuit states.

Details of the settlement have not been released.

The lawsuit was against SFA, the Board of Regents, and school President Dr. Scott Gordon.

The accused students claim that they were "being deprived of their constitutional due process rights based on falsehoods, misrepresentations, and a rush to convict arising from an on campus incident involving several SFA students that occurred on or about September 14, 2020."

According to SFA, someone falsely reported Christin Evans, a 17-year-old freshman and cheerleader at SFA, was trying to stab another person with scissors. According to Evans, the report resulted in campus police barging into her dorm at 3 a.m. with guns drawn while she was asleep.

During a press conference earlier this month, SFA Police Chief John Fields said the three officers who assisted in the call followed protocol for what they believed the situation to be. “At no time, when we go inside the room like the wild wild west like it’s been presented,” Fields said.

Police knocked on Evans door four times before a suitemate let them in through her door. “Only one officer had a weapon unholstered,” Fields explained. “It was night and it was no lights on in the room, and he had a light on it, on his weapon. At no time was he intentionally trying to point it at the subject."

Fields said the situation de-escalated when Evans was found asleep in her bed.

Chief Fields said the incident was "not a racially motivated incident because some Black females were involved."

Fields said the campus police officers involved were wearing body cameras during the incident. “We have asked for the parents to give us permission to release the body cam,” Fields said. “Once that’s released, then everyone will see exactly what happened.”

During a press conference on Oct. 3, Erika Harris, of Harris Consulting and acting on behalf of the university, said the body cam video will help paint a very different picture than what has been previously reported in the past about the incident at Evans' dorm room, specifically that police did not barge into her room with guns drawn.

Randall Kallinen, Evans' attorney, said the family has not yet seen the body cam video, though he said the family has requested to see the video twice already. Before considering whether to release the video, Kallinen said the family wants to view it first.

In the lawsuit, the accused students state the university and its representatives have publicly referred to them as “perpetrators” and “suspects” and have guaranteed that they will be disciplined.

The accused students also claim the university took two weeks to complete their own invitation, yet they didn't provide them with adequate time to prepare for their hearing. The document states they were given 2-3 days to prepare for their defense.

"SFA and its representatives, however, refuse to provide Plaintiffs with adequate notice of what SFA rules they are accused of violating, refuse to turn over key evidence related to the incident, including video recordings and witness statements, and refuse to allow Plaintiffs adequate time to prepare to respond to the allegations against them," the lawsuit states.

The accused students have also requested a temporary restraining order to preserve the status quo by prohibiting the school and their subordinates from taking any further disciplinary action against them.

SFA has submitted the false report investigation to the Nacogdoches District Attorney's Office. According to Dr. Gordon, the disciplinary process will continue.


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