WAYNE M. KLOCKE, Independent Administrator of the Estate of Thomas Klocke, Plaintiff - Appellant
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT ARLINGTON, Defendant-Appellee
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Texas
OWEN, SOUTHWICK, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
STEPHEN A. HIGGINSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
appeal arises out of a Title IX suit for damages alleging
that the University of Texas at Arlington ("UTA")
discriminated on the basis of sex in disciplining student
Thomas Klocke. The district court granted summary judgment to
UTA. We affirm.
2016, Thomas Klocke and Nicholas Watson were enrolled in an
accelerated two-week summer class at UTA. On Thursday, May
19, Watson reported to UTA administrators that he felt
threatened by Klocke and would not return to class if Klocke
were present. Watson gave the following account. Watson and
Klocke were sitting next to each other in class when Klocke
typed "gays should die" on his computer and showed
it to Watson. Watson typed back, "I'm gay."
Klocke verbally called Watson a "faggot." Watson
told Klocke, "I think you should leave." Klocke
replied, "You should consider killing yourself."
Klocke changed seats about an hour later.
Students Heather Snow referred the matter to Student Conduct
Officer Dan Moore. On May 19, Moore emailed Klocke to inform
him that Moore was investigating whether Klocke had violated
UTA's Student Code of Conduct. Moore barred Klocke from
attending or contacting anyone in the class pending further
notice. Klocke responded to Moore denying that he had
violated UTA policy, requesting further information, and
asking to be allowed to attend class. On Friday, May 20,
Moore and Klocke spoke by phone. Over the phone, Klocke did
not provide a counter-narrative or otherwise dispute the
met in person with Watson on Friday, May 20. Moore thought
that Watson came across as "genuinely scared and
worried" and "fearful of Klocke." Watson
mentioned that shortly after the confrontation, while class
was still in session, Watson had emailed the professor Dwight
Long and passed a note to his adjacent classmate. Moore later
confirmed that Watson had relayed the same version of events
to both Long and the classmate.
then met in person with Klocke on Monday, May 23. Klocke
denied making homophobic comments. According to Klocke,
Watson had flirtatiously called Klocke "beautiful,"
and Klocke responded by typing, "Stop- I'm
straight." Watson continued glancing over at Klocke
until Klocke told him a second time to stop. Klocke agreed
that Watson had told him to leave. He explained that he later
changed seats because Watson was creating a distraction by
laughing and using his phone.
the May 23 conversation, Moore noticed that Klocke
continually referred to a piece of paper that "appeared
to be a script or outline." When Moore asked Klocke
follow-up questions, he observed that Klocke "would
consult his script/outline and there were often long pauses
before he would say anything." Klocke's responses,
when he gave them, seemed to Moore to "lack any
substance." For instance, Moore recalled that "at
one point Klocke said that he was scared of his accuser.
[Moore] asked why he was scared, and he wasn't able to
tell me why. He just said he was scared."
end of their conversation, Moore told Klocke that Klocke
could work with classmates on a group project but that Klocke
would remain barred from attending class. Moore also arranged
for Klocke to take an upcoming May 24 exam in a separate
Tuesday, May 24, Moore interviewed the classmate who had been
sitting closest to Watson and Klocke. The classmate had not
overheard the conversation and had only noticed that
"both students looked really tense." Contrary to
Klocke's version of events, the classmate had not noticed
Watson laughing or otherwise causing a distraction. After
Klocke left, the classmate had asked Watson what happened,
and Watson had passed over a note saying, "That guy
called me a faggot, told me gays should die and [illegible] I
should kill myself. am [sic] actually scared."
on these interviews, Moore found Watson "more
believable" and concluded Klocke should be held
responsible for harassment, but not for making threats.
Because Watson was "still very uncomfortable" with
being in class with Klocke, Moore hoped to find a solution
where Klocke could finish the course without attending. Moore
contacted Long, who assured Moore that he could work
one-on-one with Klocke outside of class and adjust
Klocke's assignments as needed.
Wednesday, May 25, Moore and Klocke had a final meeting.
Moore explained that he had concluded his investigation and
was holding Klocke responsible for harassment. Klocke would
be placed on disciplinary probation and would not be allowed
to attend class, though he would be able to complete the
course with Long's support. He and Watson would be
mutually prohibited from contacting each other. The sanction
would appear on Klocke's disciplinary record but not on
his transcript. Klocke would have two weeks to appeal the
sanction. When Klocke expressed concern that Watson might
"look up where he live[d]," Moore told Klocke to
contact Moore if he felt he was being harassed or stalked.
next week, Klocke continued to do coursework, albeit without
attending class. He completed portions of the five-part,
self-paced final exam, worked on a group project with
classmates, and met one-on-one with Long.
evening of June 2, 2016, Klocke killed himself by shooting
himself with ...