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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Attorney General's Office responded Friday to criticism from Lauren McCluskey's family after the University of Utah filed to dismiss the family's lawsuit against the school, following the U. student's killing on campus, an emailed statement reads.
The parents of McCluskey, who was gunned down by an ex-boyfriend, sued the school for $56 million in July, claiming the university had not taken responsibility for the Oct. 2018 death of their daughter and failed to protect her, even after repeated calls for help to campus police.
“We had hoped for an adult conversation with the University of Utah administration, to work with them to build a safer future for all students,” Matt McCluskey said in June. “Regrettably, the administration has chosen the path of defensiveness, denial and no accountability.”
A few months later, on Sept. 20, the university filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which was met with criticism from the community and the McCluskeys. Now the attorney general's office, which represents the U., has responded to that criticism.
"The University of Utah and the Attorney General’s Office do not take the position in the motion to dismiss that 'every concern expressed in Lauren’s McClusky’s complaint is without merit,' as the McCluskeys’ lawyers claim," the attorney general's statement reads.
The office argues that, while it takes the McCluskey family's concerns seriously, there is no legal precedent for this type of lawsuit. Neither Title IX nor the Constitution allow lawsuits seeking money damages in instances when a campus police or staff do not prevent a student from being harmed.
"This does not mean that the University did not listen to the concerns expressed by the McCluskey family, or that it is not taking responsibility for its students’ safety," the statement reads.
After McCluskey's death, university officials met with her family to take steps to make the campus safer, including restructuring the campus police department and providing training to its police officers.
The attorney general's office also said the motion to dismiss the lawsuit does not mean the university did not listen to the concerns expressed by the McCluskey family and that filing the motion to dismiss does not stop both parties from engaging in further discussion to resolve the case.
"(The motion to dismiss), it was not meant to, and did not, blame the victim, dismiss the important issue of campus safety, or minimize in any way the terrible tragedy of Lauren McCluskey’s death," the statement reads.