Baylor

LaPrise Harris-Williams, a former acrobatics and tumbling coach at Baylor University, intends to file a Title IX lawsuit against the school next week, her lawyer said.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte, file

A former Baylor University acrobatics and tumbling coach intends to file a Title IX lawsuit against the school next week, her lawyer told the Tribune-Herald on Thursday.

LaPrise Harris-Williams, who left Baylor in 2014 after a three-year stint at the school, attended a pre-lawsuit mediation Thursday and left the meeting unsatisfied, according to her lawyer, Ricky Patel.

“We found out that Baylor University is not taking us seriously,” Patel said. “We’re now finding out that a lot of people who are settling — Baylor just wants to get this over with. LaPrise wants to make sure that when this is over, Baylor implements things so it makes the university better than when she left.

“As of right now, we’re getting ready to file litigation and prepare to find out exactly what is going on behind the scenes.”

Patel, a Coral Gables, Florida, attorney, said 40 women have told Harris-Williams about a culture of sexual violence at Baylor, and at least a dozen others told her about personal experiences of sexual assault.

Most are suffering from depression, said Patel, who also represents Dolores Lozano, a former Baylor student with an active Title IX lawsuit against the school. The university has moved to dismiss that lawsuit.

University response

The university “strongly disagrees” with the claims and “will continue to defend itself vigorously,” the school said in a statement Thursday.

The university said Harris-Williams “separated from the University in 2014 pursuant to the provisions of her contract, receiving a severance payment without complaint.”

“Since Ms. Harris-Williams left the university in May 2014, Baylor’s acrobatics and tumbling team has been extremely successful, winning three national championships under a new coaching staff,” according to the statement. “Additionally, the university has made significant enhancements to strengthen its prevention of and response to sexual violence, which include the structural completion of 105 recommendations and a new institutional leadership team.”

Harris-Williams teaches gymnastics to 3-year-olds in St. Vincent, because she could not find a job in the United States due to Baylor’s sexual assault scandal, Patel said.

The university said her departure “had nothing to do with any Title IX-related issues, in spite of what she is now alleging. Any suggestions to the contrary are, quite simply, false.”

If Harris-Williams files the suit next week, it would be the 10th such case filed against Baylor arising from the scandal.

Lozano worked as a manager for the acrobatics team under Harris-Williams, Lozano has said in her lawsuit. She claims to have been physically assaulted by then-Baylor football player Devin Chafin.

According to the lawsuit, Harris-Williams was concerned about Lozano and reported the news to Nancy Post, an associate athletics director. Lozano said Post “completely disregarded” what Harris-Williams told her.

A then-sports chaplain and then-President Ken Starr did not take action against Chafin despite having direct knowledge of the situation, Lozano has alleged.

Through his attorney, Starr said he acted appropriately. Starr was fired in May 2016 along with then-head football coach Art Briles after Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP found ”fundamental failure” in Baylor’s response to sexual assault allegations and Title IX implementation from 2012 to 2015, regents reported.

Athletics Director Ian McCaw later resigned and now holds the same position at Liberty University.

Three of the nine Title IX lawsuits have been settled, and the university has also settled with at least three other alleged sexual assault victims who did not file suit.

Phillip has covered higher education for the Tribune-Herald since November 2015.

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