The parents of Katie Meyer, the former Stanford soccer captain who killed herself earlier this year, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university.
Meyer, who was part of the 2019 national champion women's soccer team, died by suicide in late February after receiving a formal written disciplinary notice from the university for having spilled coffee on a football player who allegedly sexually assaulted a 17-year-old player on Meyer's team.
The university had put her diploma on hold for a few months, which threatened her ability to graduate and attend Stanford Law School.
The lawsuit, obtained by BuzzFeed News, alleges that the letter was "recklessly and negligently sent by Stanford employees after hours" and that when she received the message, Meyer was "sitting alone in her dorm room" and immediately responded that she was "shocked and distraught" that she was being threatened with removal.
"Stanford failed to respond to Katie's expression of distress, instead ignored it and scheduled a meeting for three days later via email," the lawsuit states, adding that employees of the university made no effort to check in on Meyer's well-being.
The letter caused Meyer to suffer "an acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide," the complaint alleges.
"Katie's suicide was completed without planning and solely in response to the shocking and deeply distressing information she received from Stanford while alone in her room without any support or resources," the lawsuit states.
The complaint also alleges that the school "selectively chose" not to bring disciplinary charges against the football player who had allegedly assaulted Meyer's teammate.
The lawsuit lists the defendants as Stanford University and the school's president, as well as the deans and associate deans, vice provost, and general counsel.
Meyer's parents alleged that they all breached the standard of care owed to their daughter and substantially contributed to her tragic death.
The university released a statement denying any wrongdoing.
"The Stanford community continues to grieve Katie's tragic death, and we sympathize with her family for the unimaginable pain that Katie's passing has caused them," the statement reads. "However, we strongly disagree with any assertion that the university is responsible for her death. The complaint brought by the Meyer family, unfortunately, contains allegations that are false and misleading."
The university contends that it offered Meyer an adviser to help and told her that she could have a support person of her choosing with her in any meeting.
"The allegation that OCS did not communicate with Katie prior to Feb. 28 is also incorrect," the university said. "Several days earlier, the head of OCS had informed Katie that a decision would be made by Feb. 28 whether to proceed to a hearing."
After Meyer provided the needed information, the school alleges that it informed her on the evening of Feb. 28 that the matter would move to a hearing.
"In that correspondence, Katie was explicitly told that this was not a determination that she did anything wrong, and OCS offered to meet with her to discuss the matter if she wished," the statement reads. "Shortly after receiving that email, Katie wrote OCS staff and received a reply within the hour."
Regarding the sexual assault allegations, the school alleges that it reported the claim to Stanford's Title IX office and the police but that the Title IX office did not pursue the matter.
"We plan to fully defend the university and named defendants against the allegations in the complaint," the university said.
In the past, Meyer was described by the university as a "fiercely competitive" athlete who was "extraordinarily committed to everything and everyone in her world."
"Her friends describe her as a larger-than-life team player in all her pursuits, from choosing an academic discipline she said 'changed my perspective on the world and the very important challenges that we need to work together to overcome' to the passion she brought to the Cardinal women's soccer program and to women's sports in general," the school said shortly after her death.
Dial 988 in the US to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386. Find other international suicide helplines at Befrienders Worldwide (befrienders.org).