Baylor University on Tuesday sought to dismiss a Title IX lawsuit accusing the school of failing to provide sexual assault victims with legally mandated support systems, thus denying them educational opportunities.
The plaintiff, a former Baylor volleyball player, alleges as many as eight football players drugged her and took turns raping her in 2012 at an off-campus apartment with glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling.
Football players considered gang rape a bonding experience, according to the lawsuit, and at least one, 21-second video of two Baylor students undergoing such treatment by football players had circulated, the suit states.
The university filing pushes back on the legal action, saying the plaintiff’s claims expired in spring 2015 at the latest, and her complaint “reads like an extended press release . . . attempting to use inflammatory allegations and speculation about sexual assaults of other women, unrelated in time or place to her own alleged sexual assault, to bolster her claims and unfairly prejudice Baylor.”
Baylor took the additional step of motioning to strike from the court most of the plaintiff’s allegations, including the claim that football recruits were lured to the program by female student hostesses expected to have sex with them. Allegations about the hostess program, the Baylor Bruins, were raised in a January lawsuit that also alleges 52 acts of rape committed by 31 football players.
Title IX allegations must establish that appropriate university officials with “actual knowledge” of sexual misconduct responded with “deliberate indifference,” so much so that educational opportunities were deprived.
Baylor also argued, as it has in other lawsuits, that 2011 federal guidance outlining how universities should respond to sexual violence reports does not have “the force and effect of law.”
The plaintiff alleges the players yelled, “Grab her phone! Delete my numbers and texts!” after raping her. Nude photos of her were taken during the rape, and she was then verbally abused and humiliated by players, with one player telling her she wanted it, she alleges.
The university declined further comment Tuesday night. An attempt to reach the woman’s Houston-based lawyer, Muhammad Aziz, was unsuccessful.
The school had attempted to reach a resolution with Aziz for months, the university indicated in June.
In May 2016, Baylor regents removed Ken Starr as president and Art Briles as head football coach after an investigation into sexual violence response at Baylor found a fundamental failure in Title IX implementation and a football program operating above the rules, regents reported. Athletics Director Ian McCaw was sanctioned, placed on probation and resigned days later. Two other athletics staffers were also fired.
Lawsuits and investigations
Baylor faces six Title IX lawsuits and several investigations. Baylor has sought to dismiss each of the lawsuits.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled in March that sexual assault victims have until spring 2018 to sue Baylor under the Title IX claim that Baylor created a heightened risk of sexual harassment or assault.
The plaintiff in the suit Baylor responded to Tuesday was not presented with Title IX-related reporting options, the lawsuit alleges. Rather, she was presented with statistics about how few women report sexual assaults, according to the suit. Doe’s mother met with an assistant coach and listed the players involved to the coach, but she never again heard from him, according to the lawsuit.
The woman alleges Briles, McCaw and her volleyball coach did not report the incident to police or to Baylor’s judicial affairs office, which handled such incidents at the time.
An unrelated February legal filing by three Baylor regents aligns with Doe’s account of how the report was handled in the athletics department.
“Those are some bad dudes . . . why was she around those guys?” Briles allegedly responded after being told the names of the players involved.
The woman also alleges football players burglarized her apartment, a year after she took a player’s dog to the veterinarian and paid for urgent treatment after the dog was injured in a dogfight organized by football players.
She said she left the university in spring 2013.
When the lawsuit was filed, McCaw’s attorney said his client directed the plaintiff’s coach, Jim Barnes, to the judicial affairs office. His attorney also said Baylor did not have a Title IX office or related education programs, policies or procedures in place.