How “Katie’s Save” creates a crisis line for struggling college students
Stanford athlete Katie Meyer died by suicide in early 2022. Her parents have started “Katie’s Save,” a program to create a crisis line for students.
Hank Farr and Josh Peter, USA TODAY
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline which provides confidential 24/7 support by dialing 9-8-8.
The parents of Katie Meyer, the former Stanford soccer goalkeeper who killed herself in February at the age of 21, have sued the university for wrongful death, according to a copy of the civil lawsuit obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
At the time Meyer committed suicide, she was facing disciplinary action for allegedly spilling coffee on a Stanford football player in August while she was riding her bike, according to the complaint filed Wednesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
The football player allegedly sexually assaulted a female soccer player, then a minor, on the Stanford women’s soccer team on which Meyer served as a captain, according to the complaint.
Meyer’s father, Steve, previously told USA TODAY Sports that the disciplinary issue arose from Katie Meyer defending a teammate.
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On the evening of Feb. 28, the night of Meyer’s death, Stanford “negligently and “recklessly’’ sent her a formal written notice charging her with a “Violation of the Fundamental Standard by spilling coffee on another student,’’ according to the complaint.
“Stanford’s after-hours disciplinary charge, and the reckless nature and manner of submission to Katie, caused Katie to suffer an acute stress reaction that impulsively led to her suicide,’’ the complaint states. “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.’’
In addition to wrongful death, the lawsuit also charges Stanford with Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress and related actions.
Stanford disagrees that it is responsible for Meyer’s death but has not seen the formal complaint filed by Meyer’s parents, said Dee Mostofi, assistant vice president of external communications for the university.
“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,” Mostofi told USA TODAY Sports by email. “However, we strongly disagree with any assertion that the university is responsible for her death.”
The formal disciplinary charge against Meyer resulted in her diploma being placed on hold three months before her scheduled graduation and threatened her status as a Stanford student and, among other things, captain and member of the soccer team that she helped lead to the national championship in 2019.
Meyer received the letter after 7 p.m., at which point Stanford’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services was also closed, according to the complaint.
“Katie, sitting alone in her dorm room, when it was dark outside, immediately responded to the email expressing how ‘shocked and distraught’ she was over being charged and threatened with removal from the university,’’ the complaint reads. “Stanford failed to respond to Katie’s expression of distress, instead ignored it and scheduled a meeting for 3 days later via email. Stanford employees made no effort whatsoever to check on Katie’s well-being, either by a simple phone call or in-person welfare check.’’
In November 2021, according to the complaint, Meyer expressed despair to Stanford employees when she stated she had “been scared for months that my clumsiness will ruin my chances of leaving Stanford on a good note” and was experiencing anxiety during the disciplinary process.
Mostofi, the Stanford spokesperson, said the head of the Office of Community Standards (OCS) contacted Meyer “several days” before the former goalkeeper received written notice of a possible violation of community standards.
“She gave Katie until that date to provide any further information for consideration,” Mostofi said. “Katie provided no information and OCS informed her on the evening of February 28 that the matter would move to a hearing.”
The alleged incident involving Meyer that triggered the disciplinary process involved physical injury, according to Mostofi.
“Stanford’s Office of Community Standards received a complaint regarding alleged behavior by Katie that resulted in physical injury,” Mostofi wrote, “and as is the practice of the office, it launched a review of that allegation. After extensive factfinding and the opportunity for both sides to provide information, it was found that a high threshold was met for the matter to proceed to a hearing.”
Mostofi did not immediately respond to a question about the severity of the physical injury.
In the university correspondence emailed to Meyer Feb. 28, Mostofi said, Meyer 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.” According to Mostofi, Meyer also was given a number to call for immediate support and was specifically told that this resource was available to her 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“Shortly after receiving that email, Katie wrote OCS staff and received a reply within the hour,” Mostofi said. “Katie asked for a meeting to discuss the matter, was offered several available times, and chose one three days later despite the availability of an earlier appointment.”
The football player, who was not identified by name in the lawsuit, indicated throughout the disciplinary process that he would like to “make amends’’ and did not want any punishment that would “impact’’ Meyer’s life, according to the complaint.
Lisa Caldera, the Dean of Residential Education, brought the complaint against Meyer to Stanford’s Office of Community Standards, according to the lawsuit, which said Meyer was charged on the final possible day. A charge must be brought within six months of the occurrence and the spilled coffee occurred on August 28, 2021, according to the complaint.
Caldera and Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne are among those named as defendants.
The lawsuit says Stanford failed to initiate any meaningful Title IX or OCS disciplinary process for the football player even though the school was required to dismiss the player from the team under its own policies pledging zero tolerance for sexual violence.
Mostofi also addressed a matter involving a Stanford football player, though she did not confirm it was the player involved in the disciplinary charge against Meyer. The Stanford spokesperson said the “allegation that Stanford failed to address a claim that a football player kissed one of Katie’s soccer teammates without her permission is inaccurate.
“In fact, it is the university that initially reported this claim to Stanford’s Title IX office and the police. However, the Title IX office did not pursue the matter since the criteria for moving forward with an investigation were not met.
“Stanford will address any other misrepresentations or inaccuracies that are found in the filed complaint once it has received a copy.”
In a statement released through their attorney, Meyer’s parents, Steve and Gina, said, “We are deeply troubled and disappointed with what we have learned since her passing and have no choice but to move forward with litigation to achieve justice for Katie and protect future students. In addition, we are working to seek systemic changes to improve the safety and support of the Stanford students currently on campus, and those enrolled in the future through our foundation, Katie’s Save.’’