Former Title IX investigator sues Baylor

Lariat File Photo

By Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer

Baylor was served its ninth Title IX lawsuit on Monday by former Title IX investigator Gabrielle Lyons. Lyons’ lawsuit is the second suit filed against the university in just the first week of classes.

Lyons accused Baylor of deliberate opposition and retaliation to her attempts to get Baylor to comply with Title IX, the filing states. She is seeking $750,000 for damages.

According to the complaint, the university tried to protect the “Baylor brand” by suppressing sexual harassment and assault reports occurring against female students.

“Baylor wants to maintain its image of a Christian institution that doesn’t have students drinking, having premarital sex,” Lyons’ lawyer Rogge Dunn said.

When former Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford repeatedly requested more investigators and resources, the complaint states Baylor intentionally refused to meet these needs in order to protect Baylor football players.

The lawsuit accuses Baylor of knowing about the violent culture on campus, but nevertheless taking measures to hide sexual assault allegations to the detriment of its female students and Title IX employees.

“Based on feedback received from the Title IX office, law enforcement officials offered to accompany Ms. Lyons any time she felt a situation might escalate and become difficult for her,” Baylor said in response to Lyons’ lawsuit. “They offered the same support to other Title IX staff members – and it is a service the law enforcement officials also provide to other departments across campus. Far from intending to intimidate Ms. Lyons, the law enforcement officials were trying to do everything they could to help her be successful in her work.”

Baylor said during Lyons’ employment at the university and at the time of her departure, Lyons never raised the complaints she stated in the lawsuit.

One of the complaints in the filing reports that when the Title IX office investigated possible Title IX violations against non-athlete students or other members of the Baylor community, they did not have to go through any particular person in the respective department. The office contacted the individual in question directly.

However, the complaint states that when dealing with Title IX violations in relation to a Baylor football player, Baylor required the Title IX office to first deal with a gatekeeper from the athletic department or Board of Regents.

“The athletic department often impeded the Title IX office’s ability to promptly interview witnesses or alleged harassers,” the court document states. “This prevented prompt enforcement of Title IX because it gave witnesses and harassers time to collect their thoughts, compare stories, manufacture alibis or otherwise gain information about the nature of the investigation involving them.”

Additionally, the lawsuit alleges Baylor’s retaliation to Lyons created a tense and hostile work environment intended to frustrate her in hopes she would resign.

The complaint states Lyons resigned “because Baylor thwarted implementation and enforcement of Title IX to wrongfully protect Baylor football players and the Baylor brand.”

Baylor hired Lyons April 1, 2015. She was discharged around November 1, 2015.

The lawsuit states Baylor’s improper actions ultimately resulted in the resignations or firings of Chancellor Kenneth Starr, Senior Vice President and COO Reagan Ramsower, football head coach Art Briles, Title IX Coordinator Patricia Crawford, among others.

“It is vital to remember that, in the period since Ms. Lyons left the University, Baylor has taken major steps to address the full implementation of Title IX,” the university said. “This includes working to structurally complete all 105 of the recommendations that grew out of the Pepper Hamilton findings in May 2016.”

Dunn said it remains to be seen whether Baylor’s changes are heartfelt and legitimate.