Lawsuit alleges Baylor discriminated against women

Will Barksdale | Multimedia Journalist

Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer

When Dolores Lozano filed a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor in the fall of 2016, she probably didn’t expect to be in a legal battle one year later, this time amending her complaints to accuse Baylor of fostering a culture of discrimination against women.

On Sept. 28, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman issued an order dismissing Lozano’s Title IX negligence and gross negligence claims, but allowing her to amend her complaints for negligent hiring, retention and supervision.

The amended lawsuit was submitted Oct. 14, one day later than the court ordered.

The amended complaint differs from the original lawsuit in that Lozano and her attorneys specifically emphasize what they allege to be a culture of gender discrimination at Baylor, particularly in regard to women.

Lozano’s lawyers at Florida-based law firm Farrell and Patel could not be reached for comment on Monday.

According to the complaint, Lozano had no reason to know her physical assaults were not isolated events until the Pepper Hamilton “Findings of Fact” were released. The “rampant media reports” following the released findings alerted Lozano that her injuries were “involved in a cultivated culture and policy of sweeping similar complaints by numerous other female victims under the rug,” the lawsuit states.

Pepper Hamilton ultimately reported that Baylor failed to effectively implement Title IX and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA).

The amended lawsuit further alleges Baylor “ignored the ‘Dear Colleague Letter’ [and] further evidence[d] its intent to disparately and disproportionally treat its female body on a separate playing field to that compared to the male body.”

The ‘Dear Colleague Letter’ is guidelines from the department of education on how schools should conduct Title IX investigations.

Lozano alleges she was physically assaulted three times by former boyfriend and Baylor football player Devin Chafin. The first assault occurred in March 2014 after a verbal argument, where the lawsuit states Chafin raised his voice and threatened Lozano. Chafin then slapped, kicked and slammed Plaintiff against the wall and proceeded to strangle her until she began to lose consciousness, the lawsuit says.

Lozano informed Jeff Lebby, former Baylor football running back coach of the assault shortly after it happened. Lozano was told Lebby would speak to Chafin, but according to the lawsuit no further known action was taken, and no report was filed.

At the time of the assaults, Lozano held a paid position as manager of the university’s acrobatics and tumbling team. Her supervisor was head coach LaPrise Harris-Williams. When Lozano’s emotional distress caused her to miss work, the lawsuit states Williams questioned Lozano about her absences and noticed the “apparent severe bruises and abrasions” she suffered from the first assault.

The lawsuit states Williams immediately reported the assault to her superior, Nancy Post, who continues to hold the same position as associate athletics director for the Business/Senior Women’s Administrator.

Post told Williams that “being involved with incidents like [the Plaintiff’s] were not [Williams’] responsibility,” the lawsuit alleges.

Former Baylor sports chaplain Wes Yeary was informed about the assault after Post’s “lack of willingness,” the complaint states, and Yeary then gave Lozano literature “to assist her in her ‘spiritual self-worth and preservation.’”

The lawsuit states after meeting with Yeary, former President and Chancellor Kenneth Starr was made aware of Lozano’s assaults. The amended lawsuit alleges Starr met with Chafin to discuss the assaults but never contacted Lozano.

“The assaults [Lozano] endured were again simply disregarded,” the lawsuit states. “Despite having knowledge of the assaults, Starr failed to take any corrective action to address Plaintiff’s complaints.”

The original lawsuit did not allege Starr’s involvement.

The second assault took place off campus in the parking lot of Scruffy Murphy’s, where the lawsuit alleges Chafin slammed Lozano’s arm against a vehicle and caused her physical injury. Lozano went to Baylor’s on-campus clinic to address her arm and was referred to Baylor’s counseling center. The lawsuit states no further action was taken and no report was filed.

“Despite reporting the assaults to various members of Baylor faculty members, staff and administration, not a single member of the Defendant ever contacted Plaintiff to start an investigation, to reasonably address Assailant’s attacks and unlawful actions, or to reasonably address the harm Plaintiff suffered from the assaults,” the lawsuit states.

According to the amended complaint, Baylor and its “agents, servants, directors, regents and officers knowingly allowed a Baylor University standard of ignoring female complaints and Title IX into a discriminating epidemic of its female body.”

The lawsuit ultimately claims Baylor failed to adequately train, inform and supervise its employees on Title IX procedures and policies. The lawsuit states Baylor’s lack of compliance with federal and state law created an “unsafe and discriminatory environment to its female student body and employees.”

Chafin was suspended from the Baylor football team in March 2016 after an arrest in connection with marijuana possession charges.

 

 

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