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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Federal judge rules Title IX suit against Baylor University can proceed

By Glenn Minnis | May 1, 2017


AUSTIN – A federal judge in Texas has ruled a onetime Baylor University student’s deliberate-indifference suit naming former school football coach Art Briles as one of several defendants can move forward.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pittman also denied the university’s motion to dismiss Jasmin Hernandez’s federal Title IX violation claims against the school, where she alleges its subpar handling of football player effectively put the entire female student body at risk.

Title IX is a federal gender-equity law that universities to investigate and address all complaints of sexual violence. Hernandez also names former athletic director Ian McCaw and several other school trustees as defendants.

Hernandez first filed suit in March 2016 alleging that in 2012, she was sexually attacked at an off-campus party by football player Tevin Elliott, who has since been convicted in connection with the attack and sentenced to 20-years behind bars.

In her filing, Hernandez alleges that she immediately sought assistance from school officials following the attack, but was informed by the Counseling Center that “they were too busy” to meet with her. Attempts by her parents to speak with Briles and other athletic department officials also allegedly proved futile, as did efforts to have Baylor police take control of the investigation, with officers insisting to her they could not assist because the incident took place off campus.

During trial, plaintiff attorneys revealed three other women had also previously accused Elliott of rape, including an instance where one woman voiced her complaint just weeks before his assault on Hernandez.

According to ESPN, school officials were also made aware of a 2011 incident where Elliott was accused of attacking a community college student, for which he was slapped with a misdemeanor citation in 2011.

For nearly a year now, Baylor has stood at the center of a growing firestorm centered around its handling of sexual allegations and investigations, many of them involving athletes.

Over time, the scandal led to Briles’ firing, McCaw’s resignation and the demotion and then resignation of former university president and chancellor Kenneth Starr.

In rendering his decision, Pittman wrote: "Baylor's alleged failure to address and active concealment of sexual violence committed by its football players, including Tevin Elliott, was a form of discrimination. Baylor's alleged knowledge of the need to supervise Elliott and protect female students plausibly constitutes deliberate indifference. Finally, Baylor's alleged deliberate indifference plausibly created an environment in which football players could sexually assault women, including Plaintiff, with impunity." 

She claimed Baylor officials ignored Elliott's history of assaults, failed to protect her and other women and failed to provide her with help after the assault.

Earlier this year, Pittman also rendered a decision stipulating that a Title IX lawsuit filed against Baylor involving 10 women – including one who alleged a football player raped her – could proceed. All of 10 of the plaintiffs insist they were sexually assaulted over a period of 12 years ending in 2016, with all but one of the alleged attacks taking place in housing owned or operated by the university.

Each of the victims claims to have reported the assault to ranking school officials, only to be met with "indifference and inadequate response."

Baylor school officials have since released a statement expressing: “Baylor will not waver in its promise to continuously improve its processes and systems to respond to incidents of sexual violence or in its support for the well-being and safety of all students."

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Organizations in this Story

Baylor UniversityU.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas Austin Division