San Jose State University has agreed to pay $1.6 million to more than a dozen female athletes as part of a settlement with the Department of Justice, which found that the university failed to properly handle the students’ allegations of sexual abuse by former athletic trainer Scott Shaw.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the Justice Department and San Jose State have identified 23 women who allege they were inappropriately touched by Shaw, who resigned in 2020 after 14 years at the university. Thirteen of those women have accepted the Justice Department’s offer of $125,000, which will be paid by the university. In reviewing rosters from 2009, when allegations first surfaced, to the present, the Justice Department estimates that roughly 1,000 women student-athletes could have been exposed to treatment by the athletic trainer.
Beginning in December 2009, several student-athletes, including some who were minors at the time, reported to an employee that the trainer had touched their breasts, genitals and buttocks during treatment that was described to them as “trigger-point therapy” or “pressure-point therapy,” according to the report. A student made a similar allegation as recently as February 2020, after Shaw was told by the university not to treat student athletes pending a university investigation, separate from that of the Justice Department.
“We all share the concerns going back to 2009. SJSU’s Human Resources Department and campus police conducted initial investigations in 2009-2010. It was determined at the time that there was no wrongdoing,” the university said in a statement, as reported by the Times. “The DOJ finding furthers our need for answers to questions about the original 2009-2010 investigation, and how the university responded to those findings, which is why SJSU and President [Mary] Papazian launched an external Title IX Procedural Response Investigation. The investigation is currently ongoing.”
According to The Mercury News of San Jose, here's what the university must do — beyond financial payouts — as part of the resolution agreement:
- The school must restructure its Title IX office, which investigates claims of sex discrimination, in part by clarifying that the Title IX coordinator has the authority and responsibility to implement consistent campus-wide responses to reports of sexual harassment and assault.
- SJSU must identify all female student athletes who attended SJSU while the trainer was employed, from August 2006 to August 2020, and contact them via email within the next two months, stating that the trainer sexually harassed students and inviting them to contact the Title IX coordinator to report abuse.
- Papazian must also “express appreciation, in writing” for the efforts of an employee who was retaliated against took to protect student athletes. While not identified, that employee was swim coach Sage Hopkins.
- Every semester, the athletics director must meet with the Title IX coordinator and student athletes to discuss trends in reports of sexual harassment of student athletes and ways to prevent harassment. The Title IX coordinator and the director of sports medicine will offer recommendations aimed at preventing sexual harassment by athletic trainers.
- SJSU must continue providing annual training to students and employees regarding what constitutes sexual harassment and retaliation, policies and procedures for reporting and responding to complaints. The school must monitor whether students and employees have completed the training.
- The university must provide student athletes with training specific to their experience, and provide additional training for SJSU athletics employees, Title IX personnel and university police.
- During the 2021-22 spring semester, SJSU must conduct a survey of student athletes, with the Title IX coordinator reviewing the results with the athletics director. During the same timeframe, SJSU must also conduct a survey of athletics employees to gauge their understanding of their reporting obligations related to sexual harassment.
- The university must submit progress reports to the Justice Department by Jan. 31 and July 31 through the 2024-25 school year.
As for enforcement, the Justice Department may require SJSU to retain an approved consultant if the school fails to comply with the agreement, and could pursue litigation if other attempts to resolve issues are not successful. The agreement is not an admission of liability by SJSU, but a way to resolve the Justice Department’s findings, which the university disputes.