Baylor University has settled a years-long federal lawsuit brought by 15 women who alleged they were sexually assaulted at the nation’s largest Baptist school, ending the largest case brought in a wide-ranging scandal that led to the ouster of the university president and his football. coach and tarnished the school’s reputation.
Notice of the settlement was filed in online court records Monday. The complaint was first filed in June 2016.
The lawsuit was one of several filed alleging staff and administrators ignored or suppressed reports from women claiming to have been assaulted on or near campus.
Among the early claims of some women involved in the lawsuit was that school officials sometimes used the campus code of conduct that prohibited alcohol, drugs and premarital sex to pressure women. women so that they do not report having been assaulted. Another previously settled lawsuit claimed Baylor fostered a “hunting ground for sexual predators.”
Terms of the deal announced Monday were not disclosed.
“We are deeply sorry to anyone connected to the Baylor community who has been harmed by sexual violence. While we can never erase the wrongdoing of the past, we pray that this agreement allows these 15 survivors to move forward in solidarity,” Baylor University said in a statement.
The scandal erupted in 2015 and 2016 with allegations of assault against football players. The school hired the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton to investigate how it handled these and other assaults.
The law firm’s report determined that under the leadership of school President Ken Starr, Baylor did little to address accusations of sexual assault involving football players for several years. It also raised broader questions about how the school responded to sexual assault complaints across campus.
Starr, the former prosecutor who led the investigation into the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal, was removed as president and later left the university. Starr died in 2022.
Also fired was football coach Art Briles, who denied covering up sexual abuse in his program. Briles had led the program to a Big 12 Conference championship, but he did not return to major college coaching.
Baylor officials said the school made sweeping changes in how it handled complaints and victims of sexual assault in response to the Pepper Hamilton report. That report has never been fully made public, despite efforts by the women suing the school to make it public.
Chad Dunn, the attorney for the women who settled Monday, said the lawsuit and scandal go far beyond the problems with the football program that garnered early attention.
“Their courage and strength have created legal precedents that allow others to obtain relief from the injuries inflicted by their universities, while ensuring safer educational environments for future generations,” Dunn said.
“Baylor’s media attention to football has attempted to distract from the institutional failures of the Baylor administration. Our customers would have none of this,” Dunn said. “Their determination brought public officials to the ivory tower and the ‘Baylor way.’ »