Tuesday, the Department of Justice found San Jose State University violated Title IX rules and will have to pay $1.6 million to the former athletes who were harassed. The announcement is considered a win in the eyes of the attorney for 10 of the former athletes interviewed by the DOJ.
"The feeling is really one of vindication," Attorney Shounak Dharap said. "For over a decade our clients were led to believe that the conduct they suffered was okay. Seeing the Department of Justice now come forward with the finding, words can't really express that feeling."
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The DOJ investigation found that SJSU failed to respond to the athletes' claims of harassment including "repeated, unwelcome sexual touching of their breasts, groins, buttocks, and/or pubic areas during treatment in the campus training facilities." As a result, the department concluded that SJSU's response exposed student-athletes to harm.
The department also found that SJSU retaliated against two employees who tried to alert the school about the trainer's behavior. One employee repeatedly alerted the school to the threat the trainer posed, according to the report. The other employee spoke out against retaliation against the other employee and was fired by SJSU.
The University released a statement to ABC7 News Tuesday that said in part, "We thank all the individuals who courageously came forward during the investigations. To the affected student-athletes and their families, we deeply apologize."
You can read the full statement, as posted to Twitter by the university, here:
Under the agreement, the DOJ details ways the school will handle Title IX complaints in the future in the hopes that something like this will never happen again:
- 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
- Provide supportive measures and remedies to current and former student-athletes who were sexually harassed by the athletic trainer
"That idea of what can be done so that this doesn't ever happen to any other student athlete, that has always been the driving force behind my clients' actions," Dharap said.
A civil lawsuit will still continue between the 12 athletes represented Dharap and the school.