San Jose State to pay $1.6 million to sexually harassed athletes

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San Jose State to pay $1.6 million to sexually harassed athletes

San Jose State University will pay $1.6 million to 13 female student-athletes who were sexually harassed by its former director of sports medicine, federal prosecutors said.

The Department of Justice announced the settlement Tuesday following a Title IX investigation that found the university “failed for more than a decade” to adequately respond to complaints including sexual assault against San Jose State athletic trainer Scott Shaw.

“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 of Justice said in a statement. “The department concluded that for years, SJSU’s ineffective response exposed additional student-athletes to harm.”

Shaw, who resigned in August 2020, was initially cleared by San Jose State in May 2010 following an internal investigation, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The university then launched a second probe in December 2019 and announced in April that it “substantiated” the allegations of sexual misconduct against Shaw, the newspaper reported.

Shaw has not been arrested or criminally charged in connection to the allegations, which he has denied. His attorney did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

The allegations against Shaw were detailed by USA Today in April 2020. Seventeen members of San Jose State’s women’s swimming and diving team alleged he touched them beneath their undergarments and massaged their breasts when they sought treatment for other parts of their bodies, the newspaper reported.

Attorney General Kristen Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said that students should never be subjected to sexual harassment at any university.
Attorney General Kristen Clark of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said that students should never be subjected to sexual harassment at any university.
U.S. Department of Justice

“Our clients went over a decade believing that they were wrong, that they shouldn’t have spoken up,” attorney Shounak Dharap, who represents several of Shaw’s accusers, told the newspaper Tuesday.

Dharap said her clients “essentially felt gaslighted” by San Jose State due to its first investigation that cleared Shaw of wrongdoing.

“They were told in 2009 and 2010 that there was nothing there,” Dharap said. “So to have a finding by the DOJ over a decade later is incredibly vindicating to our clients.”

The California State University System’s Title IX office then launched a new probe earlier this year that substantiated 10 women’s allegations against him spanning more than a decade.

“This harassment was preventable,” DOJ officials wrote in a letter to California’s state university system. “SJSU’s actions gave the athletic trainer unfettered access to student-athletes and led students to feel that further reports of sexual harassment would be futile.”

The investigations by the university and the Justice Department identified 23 student-athletes who Shaw touched inappropriately, but only 13 of them have accepted to receive $125,000 each, San Jose State said.

“We thank all the individuals who courageously came forward during the investigations,” university officials said in a statement. “To the affected student-athletes and their families, we deeply apologize.”

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