6 students involved in SFA police incident file lawsuit against university

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Six students involved in an incident where police stormed another student’s room have filed a lawsuit against Steven F. Austin University accusing the school of violating their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.

On Sept. 14, 17-year-old Christin Evans' room was stormed by campus police while she was asleep after campus officers received a call from the community advisor at the dorm, saying that a student was threatening to stab another student with scissors and may have been experiencing a manic episode.

Evans, who is Black, said she believes the incident was orchestrated by her white roommates and motivated by her race.

However, SFA police Chief John Fields said there were multiple ladies involved in the incident and the “evidence doesn’t lead to any racism. It’s more students doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing.”

University president Scott Gordon released a statement saying in part, “Filing a false report violates the SFA Code of Conduct and potentially the law as well … Each perpetrator will be dealt with appropriately.”

According to the lawsuit, the students filed the suit against The Board of Regents of Stephen F. Austin State University because they “have publicly referred to (the students) as ‘perpetrators’ and ‘suspects’ and have guaranteed that (the students) will be disciplined.”

However, university representatives have not provided the students with “adequate notice of what SFA rules they are accused of violating,” have not turned over key evidence and refuse to let the students prepare a response to the accusations being made against them, according to the lawsuit.

“Even worse, SFA has acknowledged numerous falsehoods related to how the incident is being portrayed to and reported in the media, yet SFA continues to rush to punish these students for something they did not do,” the lawsuit reads. “SFA is effectively telling its student body, alumni, employees, and the world, ‘What is being said about this incident is not true but we are going to punish these young ladies as if it were true.’ While the truth may not matter to SFA, it does to (the students).”

In the lawsuit, the students are demanding the university provide proper notice of the charges against each student along with copies for their attorneys, provide all bodycam footage of the incident, not conduct any hearing until 14 days after the charges and footage have been provided and refrain from criminalizing the students until and actual hearing has been had.

A temporary restraining order has been granted to the students, preventing the university from taking any further action and requiring the school to preserve any evidence concerning the incident.

Read the full lawsuit below:

About the Authors:

Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli has been a digital news editor at KPRC 2 since 2018. She is a published poet and has background in creative writing and journalism. Daniela has covered events like Hurricane Harvey and the Astros World Series win. In her spare time, Daniela is an avid reader and loves to spend time with her two miniature dachshunds.

Emmy-winning journalist, native Houstonian, reader, dancer, yogi.