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LSU Failed to Address Sexual Misconduct

Published on Dec 8, 2020 at 8:34 am in Title IX.

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For over a year, people at the highest levels of the Louisiana State University athletic department have filed complaints about running back Derrius Guice. However, with each complaint, LSU officials have doubted women’s stories, didn’t conduct investigations, or didn’t call the police. All of those decisions have allowed Guice to continue his football career.

A member of the LSU diving team told her coach and an athletic department administrator that Guice had raped her friend at a party in the spring 2016 semester. Later that summer, a female student told two senior athletic administers that Guice took a partially nude photo of her without her permission and shared it with a team equipment manager and possibly others. In April 2017, the athletic department received a second rape allegation report against Guice, this time by a women’s tennis player.

Federal laws and LSU’s own policies require university officials to take sexual abuse allegations seriously and report them to the Title IX office so that the allegations can be investigated. If the incidents were said to have occurred on school property, campus police should also be informed.

Investigating Sexual Misconduct at LSU

According to a USA TODAY investigation, LSU’s failure to adequately address sexual misconduct goes beyond Guice. Officials from the university’s athletic department and general administration have repeatedly ignored complaints against abusers and denied victims’ requests for protection. As a result, it’s likely the victims have been subjected to further harm by the known predators.

At least seven LSU officials had direct knowledge that Drake Davis, a wide receiver, was physically abusing his girlfriend—an LSU women’s tennis player. The officials sat on the information for months, while Davis continued to assault and strangle her. In another case, the school determined that a male fraternity member had sexually assaulted two women, but it refused to remove him from the classes he shared with one of them. The university also ignored an allegation against him by a third female student.

Through its investigation, USA TODAY also found three cases where, instead of suspending or expelling male students found guilty of sexual assault, the university allowed them to stay on campus and issued deferred suspensions. That is a probationary period during which the suspended party is supposed to keep out of trouble. In a fourth case, LSU deferred the suspension of a male student who stalked and sexually harassed a fellow student, even after he’d pleaded no contest in court.

USA TODAY is not the only entity investigating the sexual misconduct at LSU. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights launched a sex-discrimination investigation into LSU in August 2015. That investigation was launched after a woman filed a complaint saying that no one informed her of her Title IX options when she reported her sexual assault to campus police. Three years later, in July 2018, the case was dropped when the victim stopped communicating with them.

LSU’s Response to the Investigations

When questioned by USA TODAY, LSU declined to make coaches and administrators available for interviews. School officials also failed to answer nearly four dozen questions the new outlet submitted regarding handling specific allegations and Title IX cases more generally. LSU, however, did release the following statement:

We are unwavering in our commitment to respond promptly to any reports of misconduct, to investigate these reports in a manner that is fair and equitable, to support victims of sexual assault, and to protect the privacy of our students according to the law. Putting an end to sexual assault is an institutional priority, and we are constantly working to achieve that goal.

Of the nine athletes accused of sexual misconduct, LSU has formally acknowledged disciplining two: Drake Davis and Peter Parrish. Davis was expelled, but not until July 2019—four months after his criminal conviction and ten months after he’d already left the school. Parrish was suspended for one year.

LSU’s Problematic Title IX Process

For victims of assault who wish to come forward at LSU, the university does not make the process easy. Some believe the process is intentionally lengthy and cumbersome in an attempt to avoid lawsuits—as the school knows perpetrators are more likely than survivors to sue.

According to Sarah Nesbit, a policy and advocacy organizer for the nonprofit Known Your IX, this is not uncommon. Many universities operate from fear of being sued in Title IX cases. There has been a significant uptick in lawsuits filed by disciplined male students against their universities in the past five years. Even if a university can defeat a lawsuit, it still puts a drain on its resources.

With the complex Title IX process, most victims reach a point where they simply want the situation to be over. One victim said the following to USA Today: “They told me, ‘It’s best to just let him graduate and then you never have to see him again.” I said, ‘That’s not the point. The point isn’t that I have to see him again; the point is that he did this and nothing happened.’ It had been so long and already taken so much of my time and energy and stress, that I just kind of gave up. I just wanted it to be over with.”

Survivors of sexual assault often feel as if they have nowhere to turn. That’s why the compassionate and understanding attorney from Thomas Law Offices are prepared to offer legal guidance and support. If you believe you have been a victim of sexual misconduct, you deserve to have your rights protected. Contact us today for more information.