By Morgan Harlan | Staff Writer
Baylor University refuted parts of a federal lawsuit filed against the school on Wednesday by a former member of the Baylor equestrian team, who claims her sexual assault investigation was not handled properly under federal Title IX law.
The plaintiff, who the lawsuit refers to as Jane Doe, was a freshman at Baylor during the 2017-18 school year. She claims she was assaulted by two Baylor football players on Nov. 11, 2017, and that a third football player filmed the assault and shared it with a freshman football Snapchat group and others.
The plaintiff’s attorneys, from the Dallas based law firm Farrow-Gillespie Heath Witter LLP, wrote in the lawsuit that Baylor’s actions violated federal Title IX laws. The lawsuit also says Baylor allowed the football players to attend tutoring sessions and the athletic dining facility at the same time as the victim despite a “No Contact Order” that was implemented. She claims Baylor refused her request to adjust the football player’s schedules, but instead adjusted hers. The plaintiff wants financial compensation including relocation costs, medical expenses, additional education expenses, and for intense emotional pain and undue stress.
In a statement to the Lariat, Baylor said that this is a complex case and contrary to the allegations in the complaint, Baylor’s Title IX policies and procedures were followed in how the incident was handled. Baylor’s investigation involved three complainants, four respondents, and multiple allegations by each of the three complainants against each of the respondents. More than 30 individuals were interviewed as part of the university’s investigation process, according to school officials.
“Importantly, the same day that Athletics officials learned about the incident, they reported the matter to Baylor’s Title IX Office and subsequently suspended the respondents from all team activities within 36 hours of the incident report,” the statement said. “Additionally, interim measures were coordinated by the Title IX Office during the pendency of the investigation to limit contact among the involved parties as reasonably as possible.”
According to United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, “Interim measures are individualized services offered as appropriate to either or both the reporting and responding parties involved in an alleged incident of sexual misconduct, prior to an investigation or while an investigation is pending. Interim measures include counseling, extensions of time or other course-related adjustments, modifications of work or class schedules, campus escort services, restrictions on contact between the parties, changes in work or housing locations, leaves of absence, increased security and monitoring of certain areas of campus, and other similar accommodations.”
The lawsuit claims that federal regulations and policies require the university to complete an investigation of sexual assault within 60 days and that Baylor’s Title IX office did not complete the investigation and discipline process until over a year later, in February 2019.
Baylor’s statement contradicts this claim, saying, “Sixty days is a guideline, not a mandate. This case extended further due to the number of people involved in the complaint and investigation and additional information continued to become available throughout the process.”
Title IX investigated four people, which included three football team members and an equestrian team member. Two of the football players were being investigated for sexual assault, one for filming the incident, and the equestrian member for sharing the video.
The investigation was concluded on Oct. 18, 2018. Title IX ruled on three of the four parties involved but did not rule on the fourth because the equestrian team member withdrew from the university on her own. In January 2019, they reopened Jane Doe’s case because the member of the equestrian team, the fourth party involved, wanted to return to Baylor. After the equestrian team member requested to re-enroll at Baylor, Title IX found her responsible for sexual exploitation and retaliation against Doe and she was not granted admission and was barred from campus, according to the lawsuit.
According to the Baylor statement, all of the parties involved were disciplined for their actions. “Following an extensive investigation by the Title IX Office, all of the respondents were found responsible for one or more of the allegations against them, and none are enrolled at Baylor any longer,” read the statement.
The lawsuit states the student who videotaped the incident was banned from campus and all events. One of the students who allegedly assaulted Doe was expelled from Baylor and the other was found not to have violated Baylor’s sexual misconduct policies and he was not disciplined for the incident.
Doe’s attorneys outlined in the court documents that Baylor did not have a full-time Title IX coordinator until 2014, with the hiring of Patty Crawford. In addition, two positions such as a full time Title IX investigator and a full-time Title IX administrative assistant, remained vacant.
Baylor said, in response to the points the lawsuit made, despite the vacant positions that “there was other staff available to assist students and the office was fully functioning.”
Patricia Davis, a Dallas-based attorney on Doe’s legal team, specializes in Title IX litigation. This lawsuit is her first time dealing with Baylor’s Title IX program.
“We aren’t really too interested in trying to point by point refute what they said,” Davis told the Lariat in response to Baylor’s statement.
Davis said they are representing a young woman who is very courageous and was badly hurt by the university. According to the attorney, Doe’s legal team has been in constant contact with Baylor.
“To obtain justice for herself and also to let other women know that they can’t necessarily trust the process at Baylor,” said Davis, explaining why the lawsuit was filed.
Jane Doe said she was drinking at a post-football game gathering with friends on the night of Nov. 11, 2017, at the Baylor-owned University Parks apartment of four equestrian team members. Doe said she had been consuming alcoholic beverages from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. Doe and her friends then went dancing at a local bar, Scruffy Murphy’s, at 11:30 p.m. According to witnesses, Doe and her friends were intoxicated at the bar.
“I knew I was drunk…I think I felt pretty intoxicated for a while,” Doe said to Title IX investigators, as is quoted in the lawsuit.
After leaving the bar, Doe and her friends returned to the apartment. The lawsuit says, two men sexually assaulted Doe and one of her friends at the apartment while they were incapacitated from alcohol. Another man was in the apartment and recorded five or six videos on his phone of the sexual activity that included Doe and two other victims.
The videos were then showed and distributed around campus by an equestrian team member and the man who recorded them, and the suit claims they were also shown to other members of the Baylor community.
The court papers also say on Nov. 14, 2017, Doe told Baylor equestrian head coach Cassie Maxwell what happened and Maxwell encouraged her to speak to Baylor’s Title IX office. According to the lawsuit, a member of the equestrian team told Doe that if she reported the assaults, her name would be publicized nationwide and Baylor football would “receive the death penalty.” In addition, her upper-class teammates allegedly called Doe and the other women “sluts,” told them they deserved to be kicked off the team and blamed them for the assaults.
Doe made her report to Title IX on Nov. 16, 2017, four days after she was assaulted. The Baylor Title IX coordinator at the time of the report was Maureen Holland, a Philadelphia-based attorney who was in the Title IX coordinator position on an interim basis. Holland is currently employed at the law firm of Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia and specializes in Title IX and sexual assault cases. The lawsuit says that Holland is not a trained Title IX Coordinator.
The first interview in Doe’s investigation occurred on Nov. 30, 2017, and the Title IX office did not issue a Notice of Investigation until Jan. 18, 2018. Doe was then interviewed again on March 14, 2018, and at the end of April 2018.
Michael Noble, a current Baylor Title IX investigator, and Lee Ann James, an adjunct professor at Baylor Law School and an employee of the Title IX office, were assigned to investigate Doe’s complaint. According to the lawsuit, Noble asked Doe very graphic questions and details of her assault, including the size of one man’s penis and how it felt when she was touched.
“In a textbook victim-shaming maneuver, he went so far as to ask her what she was wearing that night,” read the lawsuit.
Noble also allegedly continued to attempt to make Doe admit that she had consented to the sexual activity. He told her that she had admitted previously that she had consented, which was not true, the lawsuit stated. Doe told him and Lee that she told one of her assailants to “stop.” Noble questioned whether she said “no” forcefully enough.
“Do you think from…(his) perspective, he took it as stop don’t ever do that again?” the lawsuit quotes Noble as saying.
The plaintiff has also said she wants a jury trial. A McLennan County grand jury has reviewed the case for two of the football players involved and determined there was not enough sufficient evidence to proceed to a criminal trial.