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Ex-student files lawsuit, claims no protection from harasser

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Ex-student files lawsuit, claims no protection from harasser

Jun Starkey, News Editor

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A former City College student is suing the college because she claims it failed to protect her after she reported being sexually harassed by a classmate multiple times.

Former counseling student Christian Dungey filed for the lawsuit on Jan. 25. She said the college failed to take proper action when she came forward about being sexually harassed.

“I redid my entire life to go to school,” Dungey said. “And then it was gone in an instant.”

Dungey said the harassment began in September of 2018 and took place both in class and via text message by classmate James Rucker, who she later discovered, according to court documents, to be a convicted rapist.

She reported the harassment several times to her professor and department chair of addictive disorders counseling Gordy Coburn. She said Coburn repeatedly suggested that she drop the class but never suggested that Rucker be removed instead.

Dungey’s lawyer Rachael Sauer, who specializes in sexual harassment cases, said this type of response is typical.

“There’s a pattern in practice of not taking these claims seriously,” she said.

The Channels reached out to Coburn, but he did not respond. Public Information Officer Luz Reyes-Martin responded on behalf of the college.

“SBCC takes all reports of harassment seriously, and did so in this instance as well,” Reyes-Martin said. “Following receipt of [Dungey’s] complaint, the student who was the subject of the complaint was placed on 10 days suspension.”

Dungey also met with Dean of Students Christopher Johnson, who conducted an investigation into Rucker’s alleged harassment.

Dungey said Johnson told her that despite only talking to three out of the five witnesses, who all confirmed they heard Rucker make sexual noises and comments towards Dungey, it “didn’t rise to the level of sexual harassment.”

Dungey told The Channels that although Johnson and Coburn confirmed the three witnesses corroborated that they heard Rucker’s catcalling, the Title Ⅸ form sent to Dungey from Johnson claims there was no evidence of catcalling found.

The Channels contacted Johnson for a comment, but he declined.

According to the deposition filed by Dungey, Rucker would often send texts such as “Hello beautiful,” or “Sleep well, beautiful.” Rucker had Dungey’s phone number because they were in the same study group in class.

The harassment escalated over the next several weeks. She said Rucker followed her around campus, asked several times if he could walk her to her car, and made inappropriate physical advances towards Dungey.

Dungey said the final straw was when Rucker began moaning and making sexual comments towards her in front of classmates. She said she moved seats to create distance between them and stopped responding to his texts and in-person comments.

Rucker texted Dungey to ask why she stopped responding to his messages.

“Hi James, I need to let you know that I feel uncomfortable with all the texting,” Dungey replied in her final text to him. “I think it is best for you to find someone else to study with.”

He didn’t stop, though. At that point, Dungey sought help from Coburn who she alleges told her to drop the class.

Later, after Dungey left Coburn’s classroom, she said Rucker was waiting outside and said “have a good day, beautiful,” and grunted at her.

“He just f—— did it again! He just said it again and grunted!” Dungey said to Coburn after she ran back into the classroom to report the unwanted remark.

Dungey went to campus security on Oct. 26 and was advised to file a report with the Santa Barbara Police Department.

After filing a report, police told Dungey that Rucker spent time in prison for rape, and was currently on parole, according to court documents. Sex offenders who wish to enroll in California higher education must register with the campus police before taking classes, according to Penal Code 290.01. Because City College doesn’t have campus police, Rucker had to register with the Santa Barbara Police Department.

Officer Vaneyck Thomas followed up with Rucker, but claimed that he “played dumb” and said that his intentions with Dungey were never sexual, according to court documents.

The Channels reached out to Rucker, but he failed to respond.

Dungey eventually decided to withdraw from City College because she said she did not feel as though the college had her best interest at heart and did not do everything in its power to protect her.

She said she lives in a small town where everyone knows her, and coming forward about the claim has her constantly “looking over [her] shoulder.” She said this has greatly disrupted her life and she hopes to bring light to what is happening.

Dungey hopes to obtain retribution for her tuition because she dropped after the refund date. She also said she is seeking special damages for her distress, punitive damages against the college and reimbursement for attorney fees.

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Ex-student files lawsuit, claims no protection from harasser