Jury Finds Baylor University Negligent in Former Student’s Title IX Lawsuit
The verdict comes a month after Baylor settled another lawsuit filed by 15 women who alleged they were sexually assaulted at the school.
WACO, Texas — A federal jury found Baylor University negligent in a Title IX lawsuit filed by a former student who alleged she was physically abused by a football player.
Baylor graduate Dolores Lozano filed a lawsuit in Oct. 2016 claiming the school’s admitted campus-wide failures in addressing sexual violence put her at risk for assault, reports ESPN. It also alleged several university employees did not adequately respond to her reports that then-football player Devin Chafin physically assaulted her three times in the spring of 2014. Chafin denied the accusations in a video deposition.
In the civil trial, eight jurors sided with Lozano, determining Baylor was negligent because it “maintained a policy of deliberate indifference to reports of sexual harassment” that put her at risk and did not take sufficient measures to prevent the series of assaults. The jury awarded Lozano $270,000 for the negligence claim but no financial award for the Title IX violation. However, the jury did find it more likely than not that Baylor was legally responsible under Title IX for a leadership climate of deliberate indifference toward violence against women, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.
“After all this time, it was never about me, or just Baylor, and it was definitely never about the money,” Lozano said following Tuesday’s verdict. “It was about all the women across college campuses who go unheard. I want to tell them I see you, I hear you, and I’m standing for you and this was about all of us.”
Despite zero damages awarded for the Title IX violation, Lozano and her lawyers said it was a win because it was the first time Baylor had been held accountable by a jury for a Title IX violation.
“It’s her bravery and her tenacity to stay with it for seven years,” said attorney Zeke Fortenberry. “But for that, they never would have been held accountable.”
The verdict comes just over a month after Baylor settled another lawsuit filed by 15 women who alleged they were sexually assaulted while at the school. That lawsuit, filed in 2016, was part of a years-long investigation by the U.S. Department of Education into the school’s compliance with the Clery Act. In March 2017, the department announced it was opening an investigation into the school’s crime reporting process following reports of sexual assaults on campus being higher than the numbers Baylor had officially reported. The school was fined $460,000 in 2020.
The investigation was launched after the Board of Regents released a 13-page summary following its own months-long investigation into reports of widespread sexual assault by athletes on the Baylor football team dating back to at least 2011.
Between 2011 and 2014, student lawsuits claimed 31 athletes committed 52 rapes. As a result, the school fired head football coach Art Biles, Director of Football Operations Colin Shillinglaw, and athletic director Tom Hill, who oversaw seven sports over his 28-year career at Baylor.
Lozano’s lawsuit named Briles and former athletic director Ian McCaw as defendants, AP News reports. Both testified during the trial but U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman dismissed them from the case last week, ruling Lozano did not prove claims that Briles and McCaw were negligent in their response to her first reported assault.
In a statement, Baylor said the verdict concludes all litigation against the school from 2015 and 2016.
“We are obviously disappointed in the decision in this case, as we continue to contend that Baylor coaches and employees in Athletics and across the campus reported and handled these incidents in the correct, legally and clinically prescribed manner,” the statement read.
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