San Jose State to Pay $1.6M to Students Assaulted by Athletic Trainer
The DOJ found that SJSU failed for more than a decade to respond adequately to reports of sexual assault of female student-athletes by an athletic trainer then working at the university.
San Jose, California – California State University, San Jose (SJSU) has agreed to pay $1.6 million to 13 female students who were sexually assaulted by a campus athletic trainer and whose claims were mishandled by the school.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California found that SJSU failed for more than a decade to respond adequately to reports of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, of female student-athletes by an athletic trainer then working at SJSU.
“Beginning in 2009, female student-athletes reported that the trainer subjected them to repeated, unwelcome sexual touching of their breasts, groins, buttocks, and/or pubic areas during treatment in the campus training facilities,” said a statement from the Department of Justice (DOJ). “The department concluded that for years, SJSU’s ineffective response exposed additional student-athletes to harm. The department also found that SJSU retaliated against two SJSU employees. The first employee repeatedly alerted school officials to the threat the athletic trainer posed, and the second employee expressed opposition to retaliating against the reporting employee and was terminated by SJSU. The department and SJSU entered into a comprehensive agreement to address the findings of the investigation, which began in June 2020.”
Under the agreement, among other relief, SJSU will:
- significantly improve SJSU’s process for responding to complaints of sexual harassment;
- bolster the Title IX Office by revising the office structure and providing adequate authority, independence, and resources to the Title IX Coordinator;
- publicize Title IX policies and protocols and develop user-friendly materials so everyone in the SJSU community knows how to report Title IX concerns;
- improve the policies and procedures of the SJSU Sports Medicine and Athletics Training Program to prevent sexual harassment by athletic trainers;
- deliver training to student-athletes and SJSU Athletics employees on giving and receiving informed consent for medical treatments and athletic training services;
- survey SJSU Athletics employees to assess their understanding of SJSU policies and identify barriers to reporting;
- take concrete steps to prevent retaliation under Title IX, including through training that provides clear examples of prohibited conduct; and
- provide supportive measures and remedies to current and former student-athletes who were sexually harassed by the athletic trainer.
“No student should be subjected to sexual harassment at a college or university in our country, especially by an employee who wields a position of power,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a press release. “With this agreement, San José State University will provide relief to survivors and transform its Title IX process to ensure accountability in its athletics program and create a safer campus for all its students. The Justice Department thanks the current and former students who came forward and shared their experiences, and the employees who unceasingly advocated for their students. Because of them, San José State University will adopt major reforms to prevent such an abuse of authority from happening ever again.”
Twenty-three student athletes were found to have been inappropriately touched by former SJSU Director of Sports Medicine Scott Shaw, but only 13 have agreed to accept $125,000 each, reports ABC News. Shaw resigned last year after allegations resurfaced in the media that he had inappropriately touched swimmers during physical therapy from 2006 to 2009. He has denied the allegations.
SJSU said in a statement on its website that the DOJ’s findings were similar to findings from the school’s external investigation.
“We thank all the individuals who courageously came forward during the investigations. To the affected student-athletes and their families, we deeply apologize.”
The university said it has taken the following steps to address the problem:
- SJSU restructured and expanded its Title IX office, including the addition of new Title IX experts.
- The team, among others, will include an experienced Title IX and Gender Equity Officer (“Title IX coordinator”), responsible for overseeing compliance with, and implementation of, all Title IX-related policies, grievance procedures, and training at SJSU. The Title IX coordinator will oversee the deputy Title IX coordinator and other Title IX personnel and liaisons.
- The Title IX Office has received a significant increase in funding to: recruit and hire a new Title IX coordinator, deputy Title IX coordinator, a minimum of two qualified Title IX investigators and an administrative assistant; enhance response to reports of sex discrimination; develop informational materials; and conduct outreach to the SJSU community.
- SJSU has launched a new Wellbeing Attendant (chaperone) Policy to ensure both student-athletes and sports medicine staff have a right to request that a Wellbeing Attendant be present for any type of sports medicine treatment.
- SJSU is enhancing education and orientation programs focused on sexual assault prevention, reporting options, and resources for survivors, witnesses, and bystanders.