Editor’s note: If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide or is experiencing emotional distress, contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in 988 or in https://988lifeline.org.
The family of Katie Meyer, a Stanford goaltender who died by suicide earlier this year, is suing Stanford University and other university officials, resulting in allegations of manslaughter, intentional infliction of emotional distress and six other allegations.
Matt Meyer, the former captain of the university’s soccer team, and the 2019 National Champion, died in March 2022. She was 22 years old. Now, her family has filed a lawsuit alleging that Stanford’s handling of a disciplinary process involving Meyer led to her death, claiming directly that “the actions that led to [her] Death began and ended with Stanford,” according to the lawsuit he obtained Sports Illustrated.
“Katie Meyer’s tragic death resulted from Stanford’s gross and reckless mishandling of disciplinary procedures,” attorney Kim Dougherty said in a statement. Stanford has known for years that its disciplinary process is, in the words of its Tenth Committee, “excessively punishing” and detrimental to its students, yet the school and its principals have done nothing to rectify its procedures. Through this litigation, we will not only get justice for Katie, but ensure Also implement necessary change to help protect Stanford students and provide safeguards when students need support.”
The Meyer family filed the lawsuit Wednesday, naming the university; the school’s board of trustees; school president Marc Tessier-Lavigne; Deans and Associate Deans Lisa Caldera, Tiffany Gabrielson, and Alice Haley; Deputy Dean Susie Brubaker Cole and General Counsel Debra Zumwalt. Myers also claims action for survival, breach of tacit contract, breach of contract, violation of California Education Code Section 66270, negligence causing emotional distress and loss of union. “Stanford’s after-hours disciplinary charge, Katie’s reckless nature and submissive manner caused Katie to suffer an acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide,” the suit says.
According to the lawsuit, the disciplinary process in question stems from an August 2021 incident in which Mayer allegedly spilled coffee on a football player accused of sexually abusing a minor on Mayer’s team. Mayer’s father said before USA Today that the disciplinary order came from Meyer’s defense of his teammate.
The lawsuit alleges that Stanford “selectively decided not to pursue any formal discipline for the football player and allowed him to play the entire season without any real consequences.”
The player, who has not been identified, did not file a complaint with Stanford’s Office of Community Standards (OCS), and has said throughout the disciplinary process that he wanted a “modification” and “didn’t want any punishment affecting her life,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Meyer met with Caldera days after the alleged coffee spill and said it was an accident. After the conversation, Caldera filed a complaint with OCS, and a letter was sent to Meyer in September 2021 saying it had been filed. According to the complaint, the letter contained “heavy legal terms and threatening language”, and three days later Brigadier General Haley admitted “this is an inherently stressful process” in a correspondence.
Meyer met with Adjutant Commodore Gabrielson in September and talked about the incident. Gabrielson followed up the conversation with an email saying, “I was scared because you’re a senior and you’re looking forward to getting into law school… and the last thing you need is something to derail you,” in the lawsuit.
Mayer sent an official statement in November 2021 regarding the allegations, where she said she had been “stressed for several months” and “terrified that an accident” would destroy her future. At the lawsuit, Meyer also met with sports psychologists and discussed her increasing anxiety and symptoms of depression with her.
According to the lawsuit, Meyer had no contact with the OCS office from November 21, 2021, to February 25.
Based on the filing, it is not clear if Meyer looked into an email she received on February 25 from the office that indicated she would soon know “a formal indictment on the matter.” She believed the process was over because she had not heard from the office in months and that she had been selected for a prestigious honor from the university, according to the suit.
On the night of February 28, Meyer received a five-page, one-spaced letter from her customer services office accusing her of “violating a basic standard.” According to the lawsuit, it “contained language presuming guilt.” A portion of the letter in the lawsuit reads, “The judicial officer shall determine that there is sufficient evidence to bring formal charges when he concludes that an equitable member can find that the allegation(s) are true beyond a reasonable doubt.” The lawsuit highlighted the statements “there is sufficient evidence” and “the allegation(s) found to be true beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The letter also indicated that Meyer’s testimony would be suspended and that the charges against her could lead to her expulsion. The letter was received on the last day that Stanford could press charges, as the school must do so within six months of the incident.
According to the lawsuit, Meyer immediately responded that she was “shocked and distraught” by the message, and Stanford responded moments later with a date to meet but did not address her concerns. Computer forensics showed Meyer researching how to defend herself as well as looking at the letter and attachments.
The request said, “Stanford failed to respond to Katie’s expression of distress, instead ignoring it and scheduling a meeting for 3 days later via email.” Stanford staff made absolutely no effort to check on Katie’s well-being, either via a simple phone call. Or check personal well-being.
Mayer was found dead in her dorm room on March 1. In the suit, the OCS message was open on a computer screen at the time of her death.
Before her death, Meyer was planning to attend Stanford Law School and was waiting for a response to the school’s decision.
The Meyer family is seeking compensation, damages, and other relief. The Meyer family also started the “Katie Save” project, with the goal of “supporting students navigating the dynamics of campus life that can be complicated with the added pressures of academics, sports, performing arts, and other activities,” according to the site.
Stanford University spokesperson De Mostofi addressed the lawsuit’s allegations in a statement to ESPN.
“The Stanford community continues to mourn Katie’s tragic death and we sympathize with her family for the unimaginable pain Katie’s passing has caused,” Mostofi wrote. However, we strongly disagree with any assertion that the university was responsible for her death. Although we have not yet seen the official complaint filed by the Meyer family, we are aware of some of the claims in the filing, which are false and misleading.
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