Nov 23, 2021
San Jose State University has reached a $3.3 million settlement with 15 former student athletes who were sexually abused by a longtime sports trainer. It is the second sexual abuse settlement reached against the university in the last two months. The first – a $1.6 million agreement – came following a U.S. Department of Justice investigation which involved at least 13 additional sexual abuse survivors, each of whom agreed to accept $125,000.
The latest $3.3 million sexual abuse settlement stems from allegations against former Director of Sports Medicine, Scott Shaw, dating back to 2009. The Mercury News called the multi-million dollar settlement “the latest reckoning for the school that largely ignored the decade-long threat to students.”
The Mercury News also reported that some of Shaw’s survivors did not find the latest settlement to be sufficient given the inaction on the part of school administrators.
“Everyone wanted them to acknowledge that they allowed this to happen on their watch. But it was more like, ‘we’re sorry this happened to you,’” Lindsay Warkentin, 32, told the Mercury News. Warkentin was one of the original members of the 2009 San Jose State swim team who complained about Shaw’s treatment. “But they allowed this to happen. If they had taken action a decade ago, some of the girls would never have had to go through this,” she added.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the latest payout was issued following the aforementioned federal civil rights investigation which found, “San Jose State did not take adequate action in response to the athletes’ reports and retaliated against two employees who raised repeated concerns to the university about Scott Shaw.”
According to a September report released by the U.S. Justice Department, several female student athletes reportedly informed university officials as early as December 2009 that the trainer had touched their breasts, groins, buttocks and/or pubic areas during treatment that was described to them as “trigger-point therapy” or “pressure-point therapy.” The Los Angeles Times noted that former USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar, was accused and found guilty of similar abuse.
Allegations of sexual abuse by Shaw were reported as recently as February 2020, but he remained employed by the university until he retired in August of 2020.
The exact number of survivors abused by Shaw is unknown. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicated that there may potentially be several more former San Jose State student athletes who have yet to come forward. Accordingly, the DOJ has required the university to directly contact more than 1,000 female athletes that Shaw treated throughout the course of his career.
The sexual abuse scandals have impacted high ranking San Jose State officials:
In a statement released by the university on Friday, President Papazian thanked the survivors for sharing their “painful experiences.”
“We deeply apologize to our students and their families for the heartbreaking breach of trust that they experienced,” Papazian said. “As a campus, we are making significant changes to improve the safety and wellbeing of our entire SJSU community to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Shaw reportedly remains under investigation by the FBI, and declined interview requests from the Mercury News.
After the $1.6 million settlement was announced, the Department of Justice said that by allowing Shaw to continue working a decade after reports of sexual abuse first surfaced, administrators put the university in violation of Title IX, the civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination at any federally funded education program.
Since the first settlement was reached, San Jose State agreed to overhaul its Title IX office and respond appropriately to all future allegations of sexual abuse or harassment.
The $1.6 million settlement allows for additional survivors who may come forward in the future with claims.
According to a Los Angeles Times report, internal investigations were conducted in 2009 and 2010 by San Jose State’s Human Resources Department and campus police. Both departments determined there was no wrongdoing by Shaw, noting that his “pressure point therapy” was actually a legitimate form of treatment. In April of this year, however, the California State University systemwide Title IX compliance officer substantiated the 2009 allegations of improper touching by the former sports trainer.
“As someone who was part of the initial investigation and hoping and sharing what happened and being told we were wrong – this instilled a loss of trust in our own intuition and trust in other people,” Kirsten Trammell, 32, another swimmer from the 2009 team, told the Mercury News. “Knowing this continued to happen, and to speak with younger women who have experienced this, it’s just heartbreaking to know this continued for so long.”
Stephen Perez, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Cal State Sacramento, has reportedly been named interim successor for current university president Mary Papazian.
California sexual abuse survivors who were harmed by a university/college employee or student may be able to file a civil lawsuit seeking recovery of financial compensation. Sexual abuse civil lawsuits can be a means of obtaining justice on one’s own terms, and may allow for various damages to be recovered, such as:
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, abuse, or harassment, the experienced and proven attorneys at Dordulian Law Group (DLG) are available 24/7 to discuss your claim and legal options.
The number of sexual abuse scandals impacting major collegiate sports institutions has increased significantly in the past decade alone. Some noteworthy and tragic examples of systemic failure on the part of administrators at major colleges and universities include:
Earlier this year, around the time of the Tokyo Olympics, a Child Athlete Bill of Rights was proposed, calling on all those involved in youth athletics to make a commitment to prevent future sexual abuse. The four main principles of the proposed Child Athlete Bill of Rights (under the acronym SAFE) include:
DLG’s Sex Crimes Division is led by former prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Sam Dordulian. Dordulian began his career as a sex crimes prosecutor and founded DLG as a firm dedicated to offering a unique type of all-encompassing representation for survivors of sexual abuse. Our SAJE Team is available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have regarding the process of filing a civil lawsuit and what to expect throughout the legal process.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.