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Discrimination lawsuit from AU student dismissed after two years

Lawsuit ‘mutually resolved’ after being filed in 2020

A discrimination lawsuit filed against American University and the Metropolitan Police Department by alumna Gianna Wheeler has been dismissed. Wheeler filed the suit against the University in 2020 after being forcibly removed from her apartment in 2019 by AU Police Department and MPD officers. 

“American University is committed to the safety, security, and well-being of all students and the entire university community,” said Wheeler’s representatives, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, in a statement

The statement said that Wheeler and the University have “mutually resolved” the lawsuit against the University. It also said Wheeler reached a settlement with MPD regarding the same incident.

“To that end, the University will retain a third party consultant to assist with its regular periodic review of its policies and procedures regarding its responses to reports of situations involving students having social, emotional, behavior, or medical difficulties which may involve wellness checks and involuntary hospitalizations,” said the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

The University has not yet provided any further information about who they will hire as third party consultants for periodic reviews of its policies and procedures. 

“This matter has been resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all the parties involved,” University spokesperson Elizabeth Deal wrote in an email to The Eagle. “As noted in the statement, American University supports the safety, security, and well-being of community members.”

Wheeler was forcibly removed from her residence in the Frequency Apartments in 2019 after four AUPD and three MPD officers arrived at her residence to conduct a welfare check and determined she needed to be hospitalized for mental health reasons. In addition to being hospitalized for days, Wheeler was also suspended from the University and forced to defend her actions before a University panel.

Wheeler brought forth a discrimination suit in 2020 against the University, Dean of Students Jeffrey Brown and all of the officers involved in her seizure, alleging disability discrimination and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act. 

Wheeler and her lawyers also disputed the evidence that the defendants presented in support of Wheeler’s suspension and the “mental-health” seizure, which AUPD and MPD officers conducted without a warrant but argued was still lawful. 

Wheeler offered additional facts of her own, including statements from the officers themselves from their body cam footage that she argued undermined the rationale for her seizure. 

The U.S. District Court granted discovery in the lawsuit earlier this year, allowing both parties to gather more information in preparation for trial. 

Wheeler and the defendants had been in mediation since May of this year. Wheeler and the MPD defendants filed a Joint Stipulation of Dismissal on Sept. 14 to dismiss the claims brought forth against the MPD “with prejudice and with each party to bear their own costs and fees.”

Wheeler and the AU defendants then filed a Joint Stipulation of Dismissal on Oct. 13. The U.S. District Court officially dismissed claims brought forth against the University with prejudice on Oct. 14. 

ibrown@theeagleonline.com 


As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.


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