SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- San Jose State University will pay $1.6 million to student-athletes who reported sexual misconduct allegations against an athletic trainer only to have the university fail to adequately respond, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.
The U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California said Tuesday its Title IX investigation found SJSU's response to the reports exposed additional student-athletes to harm. According to the complaint, SJSU failed for more than a decade to respond adequately to reports of sexual harassment and assault, starting in 2009.
The department found SJSU also retaliated against two university employees, one who repeatedly alerted school officials about the athletic trainer, and another employee who was ultimately fired after opposing any retaliation against the first employee.
The settlement total will be distributed among more than a dozen women who were SJSU swimmers at the time of the harassment and assault by a former athletic trainer.
In April, SJSU President Mary Papazian apologized to women who allege they were groped by Scott Shaw, the school's former athletic trainer, calling it a "breach of trust" in a letter to students, faculty and staff.
"I am determined that we will learn from the past and never repeat it," Papazian said.
Shaw, the university's director of sports medicine, resigned in August 2020 amid allegations that he inappropriately touched 17 swimmers during physical therapy. Shaw has denied the allegations and no criminal charges have been filed.
Papazian said at the time an investigation found that the allegations were substantiated and the probe concluded that Shaw "engaged in sexual harassment and sexual misconduct."
"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 U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke in a press statement. "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."
"The department's findings provide a stark reminder that schools must respond quickly to protect students from sexual harassment. Title IX requires no less," said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds for the Northern District of California in a prepared statement. "We acknowledge the San José State University students and employees whose efforts shined a light on this issue and look forward to working with the university to implement this important agreement."
Aside from the $1.6 million financial award to the victims of sexual misconduct, the agreement stipulates SJSU to provide other relief, including:
• 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.
The department said it would monitor the implementation of the agreement through the 2024-2025 academic year.
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