Lawsuit Alleges that University of Tennessee Inaction Led to Sexual Assaults
In February, six women filed a federal lawsuit in Nashville, Tennessee accusing the University of Tennessee of allowing gender discrimination that led to sexual assaults by athletes and lack of punishment for the perpetrators. All six plaintiffs are listed as Jane Does. According to the complaint, three rapes were committed by football players, one by a basketball player and one by a male student at a party where athletes provided alcohol to underage drinkers.
The lawsuit claims that the university has historically provided a hostile environment to women, and has glossed over a long string of sexual assaults committed by male football and basketball players. It details incidents dating back 20 years where the school gave deferential treatment to male athletes. It also specified one incident in 2014, where two players who are set for criminal trials for rape were allowed to graduate with no disciplinary actions brought. The complaint also noted that in four cases, the university dragged out the disciplinary processes for so long, the athletes got to graduate or transfer to other schools. This gives rise to the plaintiffs’ Title IX gender discrimination claims.
Plaintiffs are asking for damages for tuition and related expenses, medical costs incurred due to sexual assaults, damages for emotional distress/pain and suffering, mental anguish and unequal access to educational opportunities.
A spokesperson for the university claims that assertions that sexual assaults are not taken seriously are untrue. A former vice chancellor had also raised concerns about sexual assault accusations before he resigned in March 2013.
Overview of Title IX of the Education Amendments
Title IX to the education amendments codified in (Title 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-1688) is a federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in any federally funded school, education program or activity. The Office of Civil Rights is responsible for enforcing Title IX.
Plaintiffs filing Title IX claims may get compensatory damages. Additional claims associated with rape and sexual misconduct may also yield compensatory damages for injuries, emotional damages, and medical costs.
42 U.S. Code Chapter 21
Title 42, Chapter 21 of the U.S. Code prohibits discrimination against any person based on age, disability, gender, race, national origin, and religion, and a number of settings — including education, employment. Chapter 21 is where a number of significant federal acts related to civil rights have been codified, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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