Seven female students filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Louisiana State University (LSU) for covering up numerous instances of alleged sexual harassment, discrimination and assault. Defendants in the lawsuit include University leadership, athletic department officials, the Tiger Athletic Foundation and top University administrators.
The women’s lawsuit alleges a toxic school culture that prioritizes LSU’s reputation and athletic record over the safety and well-being of its female students. The women assert that the University discouraged victims from reporting Title IX offenses and failed to properly investigate the claim of misconduct when they were reported. The plaintiffs seek damages of more than $5 million, in addition to their court costs.
LSU hired an outside law firm, Husch Blackwell, to evaluate the University’s response to the women’s reports of harassment and assault. The firm’s investigation confirmed that LSU’s actions demonstrated a “serious institutional failure.”
Title IX: What Is It, Why It Matters?
Title IX offers students and university employees protection from sex-based discrimination or harassment in educational programs and related activities. The law makes it illegal for universities to retaliate against individuals who report Title IX violations. It also requires a university’s Title IX office to investigate alleged instances of sexual violence on campus.
The women involved in the class-action lawsuit allege they suffered a range of Title IX violations at the hands of male athletes, fraternity members and other students. The suit targets LSU’s willful culture of deliberately sweeping instances of sexual violence under the rug and failing to follow Title IX’s best practices for investigating and addressing problems.
LSU’s Attempts To Conceal The Problem
As one part of the 124-page class-action lawsuit contends, LSU “discouraged [victims] and retaliated against” them as a general response to Title IX offenses. The violations listed include:
- Phone harassment
- Sexual harassment
- Domestic violence
- Emotional abuse
- Death threats
- Sexual assault
Several class-action plaintiffs reported that no one from LSU’s Title IX Office even reached out to them after they reported misconduct. Additionally, according to victims, the University failed to give them follow-up information about their claims or the school’s investigation.
Charges Of Federal RICO Act Conspiracy
The lawsuit also alleges that LSU officials and the Tiger Athletic Foundation, a nonprofit that donates millions of dollars to LSU’s athletic department, conspired to silence sexual harassment and assault complaints against athletes and coaches. Such complaints were kept in-house while the school fraudulently certified their compliance with Title IX laws and NCAA rules.
This campaign of obstruction, discouragement and silence, argues the suit, has protected the University’s star athletes from the consequences of their despicable behavior.
No Reputation Is More Important Than Safety
The tactics that LSU used to hide ongoing harassment and assault of female students created a damaging environment. It is inexcusable to put an institution’s interests above the safety and rights of those associated with that University.
The female students’ class-action lawsuit is not the only legal trouble facing LSU. The school has faced multiple investigations and lawsuits over the years for its handling of sexual misconduct. Just this month, the University’s football recruiting Director filed a claim alleging retaliation by her supervisors after she reported former football coach Les Miles for sexual misconduct in 2013.
The Future Of The Student’s Class-Action Case
Because the female LSU students’ case is a class-action lawsuit, more women may come forward and join the suit in the weeks to come. The plaintiffs’ attorneys believe that thousands of former and current LSU students have suffered from the school’s actions over the last decade. Women who experienced harassment and assault from 2013 to today may be eligible to join the class-action lawsuit.