A former Baylor University Title IX staffer said she faced discrimination and intimidation while investigating sexual assault cases involving football players, first reported by ESPN's “Outside the Lines.”
Gabrielle Lyons, who left Baylor in November 2015 after seven months, said she has voiced her claims in a Title IX complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
Lyons echoes Patty Crawford, the former Title IX coordinator who resigned in October and has said she never had authority, resources or independence to do her job. Crawford filed a similar complaint, which gave reason for the OCR to launch a federal investigation in October.
Baylor officials have disputed Crawford’s claims, saying she received three salary increases, workspace expansion, a growing Title IX budget and a three-day spa retreat for her and her staff. When Crawford resigned, the university said she demanded $1 million and book and movie rights, which her lawyer denied weeks later.
Lyons said Baylor officials resisted when she requested police records and interviews in sexual assault cases involving football players.
In response to that claim, a Baylor statement said the Waco Police Department manages its own police records.
“While we understand the frustrations Ms. Lyons might have had regarding access to these records, Baylor Police must honor Waco PD guidelines,” the statement said. “Baylor Police officers regularly provide thorough summaries of information included in pertinent records as a service to the Title IX office.”
According to Baylor’s website, “the Waco Police Department did not authorize Baylor to share its official police reports with non-law enforcement personnel such as the Judicial Affairs and Title IX offices” during part of Crawford’s tenure. The website also says Baylor police offered detailed summaries of Waco police reports.
In a timeline of Crawford’s employment on Baylor’s website, an October 2015 entry notes a Title IX investigator resigned “with no prospects for another job after expressing frustration working for Baylor and the Title IX coordinator.”
Lyons claims to be that employee and told ESPN she “was hurt and in disbelief” when she read that. Lyons said she left “because of Baylor’s noncompliance. If anything, I always asked for more support for Patty and the office.”
Lyons also said she was once told by a Baylor law enforcement official that it was unsafe to interview certain alleged perpetrators by herself, according to ESPN.
A Baylor statement said officials offered to accompany Lyons or other Title IX staffers if they felt a difficult situation could arise.
“It is a service that law enforcement officials also provide to other departments across campus,” the statement said. “Far from intending to intimidate Ms. Lyons, the law enforcement officials were trying to do everything they could to help her be successful in her work.”
Crawford has said Reagan Ramsower, Baylor’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, stood in the way of Title IX compliance. Lyons said Ramsower rebuffed Title IX staffers in an October 2015 meeting when they requested more support, calling his response “cold.”
“It’s extremely difficult to hear people put words in your mouth that you didn’t say, to represent you in a way that isn’t true, but we can’t get caught up in that,” Ramsower told the Tribune-Herald in November after a “60 Minutes Sports” segment featuring Crawford. “We have to stay focused on what we have the responsibility to do.”
In the Baylor statement, the university also denies Lyons making any such complaints while she worked there.
Lyons told ESPN she did not have previous Title IX experience but worked for several years as an investigator with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Chicago, specializing in employment discrimination.
‘Appalled’ at violence
Lyons also said she heard from several women who told Baylor officials — including a dean — about assaults from years ago and no action was taken.
“Me, being a Christian myself, I was just appalled at the level of violence taking place so rampantly at the institution,” Lyons told ESPN.
Lyons’ attorney, Rogge Dunn, did not respond to a voicemail Thursday afternoon.
The Baylor statement noted Baylor’s commitment to Title IX compliance in the time since Lyons’ October 2015 departure. The university is implementing 105 recommendations from Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, which investigated Baylor’s response to sexual assault allegations.
The sexual assault scandal at Baylor saw President Ken Starr and head football coach Art Briles fired by the board of regents in May. Athletics Director Ian McCaw was sanctioned and placed on probation but later resigned. Two other athletics staffers were fired.
Pepper Hamilton found “fundamental failure” in Title IX implementation and a football program operating “above the rules,” regents reported. The law firm’s attorneys gave an oral presentation to the board, not a full written report of the findings, the university has said.
Baylor faces four Title IX lawsuits, and Briles has sued Ramsower and three regents, alleging libel, slander and conspiracy. Those regents told the Wall Street Journal that 17 women have accused 19 football players of sexual or physical violence.