Seven women filed a federal class-action lawsuit Monday, alleging that Louisiana State University, its leadership, athletic fundraising arm and several top administrators conspired to cover up the women’s reports of sexual misconduct and dating violence, discriminated against female students and deprived them of their rights.
As reported by USA Today, which obtained a copy of the 124-page lawsuit, the women include three former LSU tennis players, two former football recruiting office student workers, a former student and a current student.
In seeking damages in excess of $5 million, plus court costs, the seven women accuse the school of prioritizing its reputation and football program above their safety and welfare and for creating a “culture of silence” in which student victims were discouraged from reporting Title IX offenses and retaliated against if they did.
It was USA Today's reporting, including the personal accounts by each of these women, that led LSU to hire the outside law firm Husch Blackwell to review its handling of their complaints before confirming "serious institutional failure," according to the paper.
The class-action status of the women’s lawsuit means others who were harmed by LSU’s failures to provide resources for student victims of sex discrimination from 2013 to the present can potentially join as plaintiffs. Attorneys for the women said they believe the affected class extends to thousands of current and former students, USA Today reported.
“We have filed an action against LSU on behalf of the young women that have bravely come forward, the young people that are still afraid, and every young person who had the dream of going to LSU,” said Karen Truszkowski, an attorney for the women, in a statement to USA Today. “Until the priorities shift back to the mission of this university, the flagship school of Louisiana, to educate and support young people in their quest to better themselves, we will not stop the quest for change.”
This is the second lawsuit against LSU and its leaders filed this month. Sharon Lewis, LSU’s longtime football recruiting director, filed claims alleging retaliation from her supervisors and a similar organized criminal enterprise to cover up Title IX complaints.
“We are focused on taking actions to ensure that we create a campus that is safe, just and worthy of the trust that has been placed in us,” LSU vice president for communications Jim Sabourin said in a statement.