The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California announced a settlement with San José State University (SJSU) to ensure that students can attend school and participate in college athletics free from sexual harassment, including sexual assault. The department conducted its investigation under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX).
The department found that SJSU failed for more than a decade to respond adequately to reports of sexual harassment, including sexual assault, of female student-athletes by an athletic trainer then working at SJSU. Beginning in 2009, female student-athletes reported that the trainer subjected them to repeated, unwelcome sexual touching of their breasts, groins, buttocks, and/or pubic areas during treatment in the campus training facilities. The department concluded that for years, SJSU’s ineffective response exposed additional student-athletes to harm. The department also found that SJSU retaliated against two SJSU employees. The first employee repeatedly alerted school officials to the threat the athletic trainer posed, and the second employee expressed opposition to retaliating against the reporting employee and was terminated by SJSU. The department and SJSU entered into a comprehensive agreement to address the findings of the investigation, which began in June 2020.
“No student should be subjected to sexual harassment at a college or university in our country, especially by an employee who wields a position of power,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “With this agreement, San José State University will provide relief to survivors and transform its Title IX process to ensure accountability in its athletics program and create a safer campus for all its students. The Justice Department thanks the current and former students who came forward and shared their experiences, and the employees who unceasingly advocated for their students. Because of them, San José State University will adopt major reforms to prevent such an abuse of authority from happening ever again.”
“The department’s findings provide a stark reminder that schools must respond quickly to protect students from sexual harassment. Title IX requires no less,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds for the Northern District of California. “We acknowledge the San José State University students and employees whose efforts shined a light on this issue and look forward to working with the university to implement this important agreement.”
Under the agreement, among other relief, SJSU will:
- 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; and
- provide supportive measures and remedies to current and former student-athletes who were sexually harassed by the athletic trainer.
The agreement also requires SJSU to pay financial relief totaling $1.6 million to individuals who were sexually harassed by the athletic trainer and who came forward to participate in the department’s Title IX investigation or SJSU’s internal investigations. The department will monitor implementation of the agreement through the 2024-2025 academic year.
Attorneys from the Educational Opportunities Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California jointly conducted this investigation, with which SJSU cooperated. Individuals with information related to SJSU’s compliance with Title IX are encouraged to contact the Department of Justice at 1-833-591-0289 or at [email protected].
The enforcement of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance, is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt, and additional information about the work of the Educational Opportunities Section is available at https://www.justice.gov/crt/educational-opportunities-section. Additional information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of California is available on its website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndca. Members of the public may report possible civil rights violations at https://civilrights.justice.gov/report/. View the summary of agreement here.