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San Jose State University Settles Sexual Assault Claims by Female Athletes

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed employee-on-student sexual harassment in the Athletic Department at San Jose State University (SJSU). Scott Shaw, a former SJSU athletic trainer, was accused of sexually assaulting female student-athletes beginning in 2008. He touched them on their breasts, vaginal area, and buttocks while purporting to treat them. SJSU’s D1 athletic program employed athletic trainers as part of its sports medicine offerings. SJSU retaliated against the two employees who reported the conduct. The DOJ investigation identified 23 victims and included 35 witness interviews of current and former administrators, coaches, athletic trainers, and staff. The agency also created an email and phone line for public reports.

The DOJ found that SJSU knew about the harassment and failed to protect its athletes from further harassment, in violation of Title IX. Witnesses reported Shaw’s conduct to the appropriate administrators in 2009 and 2010. SJSU responded with shoddy investigations where they decided not to interview many of the victims and then concluded Shaw did not violate their policies. SJSU failed to offer its student-athletes any supportive or remedial measures. In fact, SJSU allowed Shaw to continue working with female student-athletes with negligible or no monitoring. Shaw retired from his position as the university’s director of athletics in 2020 after the allegations of inappropriate touching became public.

SJSU agreed to pay $1.6 million to 13 former students who accepted the settlement. SJSU also agreed to improve its process for responding to sexual harassment complaints, to provide better resources for the Title IX coordinator, to survey athletics employees to make sure they understand the university’s policies, and to take “concrete steps” to prevent retaliation against those who lodge complaints. SJSU said in its statement, “With this agreement, San Jose State University will provide relief to survivors and transform its Title IX process to ensure accountability in its athletic program and create a safer campus for all its students.” The university president apologized for the “breach of trust.”