Three women filed a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor University in Waco’s U.S. District Court on Wednesday claiming the school did not properly investigate and respond to sexual assaults.
“The basis really arises out of an attitude of deliberate indifference to the complaints of these young women,” said Jim Dunnam, a Waco attorney who submitted the complaint.
Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3 are listed as plaintiffs.
“They’re not looking for publicity,” Dunnam said. “They’re not looking for anything of that nature, and that’s why it’s been filed as a Jane Doe petition. They have some serious repercussions, and the focus should be on the young women who had their lives and futures upturned. It’s a sad situation, but so much of the focus has been on how this affects a football program and the Waco economy and things of that nature. The focus should be on the young women who have had their futures altered and the lives of them and their families turned upside down.”
Baylor spokeswoman Tonya Lewis did not return a phone message but emailed a statement.
“Due to the deeply personal and sensitive nature of individual cases and federal law, we do not publicly address specific cases, even when a student publicly shares details or reports of his or her own experience,” the university statement reads. “This safeguard also helps assure other students that their rights to confidentiality will be protected. The decision to report to the university or other authorities is a brave and personal choice and occurs on the student’s timetable. We’re committed to and have already begun to implement changes in order to provide a safe and supportive environment for students and faculty.”
Jane Doe 1 was assaulted by a Baylor football player on April 26, 2014, according to the lawsuit, and first reported it two days later to a Baylor physician. The physician misinformed Doe 1 regarding her Title IX rights, and the Baylor advocacy center also did not take action, the lawsuit says.
In addition to suffering emotional harm, Doe 1 struggled academically and now faces “substantial student debt with little academic credit to show for it.” She left the university after the fall 2015 semester, the lawsuit says.
Doe 2 was assaulted at an off-campus house on Sept. 4, 2004, according to the complaint, and first reported it to a dorm chaplain and dorm hall director a few days later. She also told the Baylor Police Department and a report was filed, but several important facts were left out, the lawsuit says. A Baylor dean was also aware of the assault, according to the suit.
Baylor Health Center personnel performed a physical exam, but no rape kit was prepared, the lawsuit says. Doe 2 attended free counseling sessions but was forced to discontinue after her allotted sessions. She moved out of state in May 2008 and returned to Baylor in 2015 but was not given accommodations or grade forgiveness, despite Baylor knowing of her past, the complaint says.
She was also assigned two classes in the building where her assailant had approached her, which causes her emotional distresses, the lawsuit says, and she is currently suspended from Baylor. Doe 2’s appeals have not been acknowledged, the lawsuit says.
“The atmosphere and environment of sexual harassment that existed, at least in 2004 when Jane Doe 2 was sexually assaulted, continued up and through Jane Doe 2’s recent 2015 suspension,” the complaint says. “As a result of defendant university’s actions and inactions, Jane Doe 2 has suffered severe physical and mental health impairments for over a decade.”
Jane Doe 3 was first sexually assaulted in her on-campus dorm, the lawsuit says, and was harassed and assaulted by an assailant in the fall 2013 through December 2015. Doe 3 and the assailant were both staff members in university dorms.
Doe 3 also used her free allotted Baylor counseling sessions, and the clinic encouraged her to seek help elsewhere, the complaint says. While suffering academically, Doe 3 learned the assailant tried to sexually assault another person.
According to the complaint, Baylor police were notified, and the case remains open. A Baylor physician failed to explain options to Doe 3.
“The lack of knowledgeable staff and the nonexistence of a Title IX office substantially impaired Jane Doe 3’s higher education experience and has severely impaired her physical and mental health and well-being,” the lawsuit says.
Dunnam said specific damages will be developed throughout the process.
Baylor has come under fire in recent months as women have publicly announced how the university mishandled their sexual assault claims. Pepper Hamilton LLP found “fundamental failure” in the university’s implementation of federal laws and handling of sexual assault allegations.
Coordinator hired in 2014
Baylor Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford was hired in November 2014, three years after the U.S. Department of Education reminded universities to have the position.
Since 2014, two former football players, Tevin Elliott and Sam Ukwuachu, have been convicted on sexual assault charges. Shawn Oakman, a 2015 football player, was arrested on a sexual assault charge in April. Others have been named in Waco police reports alleging sexual and physical violence.
A former tennis player is named as the lone suspect in a sexual assault case, according to an August 2015 Waco police report. That investigation is ongoing.
Jacob Anderson was arrested on a sexual assault charge in March while he was president of a Baylor fraternity.
The university and the Texas Attorney General’s Office have blocked attempts by the Tribune-Herald to obtain police reports that would indicate the number of sexual assaults reported to Baylor police in recent years.
The board of regents removed Ken Starr as president and Art Briles as head football coach. Athletics Director Ian McCaw was sanctioned and later resigned. Starr later resigned as chancellor and remains a law school professor.
Baylor last week announced task forces and implementation teams to take action on 105 recommendations presented by Pepper Hamilton.
Chad Dunn, a Houston lawyer also listed on the lawsuit, said he wants to address the university’s lack of response to sexual assault claims.
“Then, hopefully create an environment in the future that minimizes, to the extent possible, further sexual assaults and then provides victims of those events with meaningful recovery tools,” Dunn said.