Title IX & Student Conduct Code Blog

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Michigan State University Expedited Title IX Review in Light of Sexual Assault Scandal

The president of Michigan State University recently announced that the school will undergo an outside review of its Title IX policies and procedures this fall instead of waiting until 2018 as originally planned. The announcement comes after the school has received attention for how it handled (or ignored) student complaints of sexual assault by MSU sports medicine doctor Dr. Larry Nassar during his long tenure at the school. Authorities have indicted Nassar on child pornography and multiple sexual assault charges.

The Signs Were There

For years, Dr. Larry Nassar was known as a superstar sports physician who attended to the aspiring Olympians of USA Gymnastics. He also worked as a physician and teacher for Michigan State University, treating many young female gymnasts who attended the school. Recruiters even reportedly used Dr. Nassar as a selling point to get talented athletes to choose Michigan State University.

Last August, a former USA gymnast was the first woman to come forward and say that Dr. Nassar sexually assaulted her under the pretense of a physical examination and spinal manipulation. More than 100 women soon followed, reporting similar assaults by Dr. Nassar. Since then, not only have authorities charged him with multiple counts of sexual assault, but the FBI also indicted him on federal child pornography charges, as authorities report the doctor was filming his assaults.

Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon recently said to trustees regarding Dr. Nassar, “I have been told it is virtually impossible to stop a determined sexual predator and pedophile, that they will go to incomprehensible lengths to keep what they do in the shadows.” However, many Title IX advocates are pointing out that Dr. Nassar’s repeated assaults weren’t at all “in the shadows.”

Reports indicate that students had made complaints to the school regarding possible assaults by Dr. Nassar since the late 1990s. These complaints were ignored, however, with the school citing Dr. Nassar’s highly regarded status as a gymnastics physician as justification to trust him. In 2014, Michigan State University initiated an investigation into possible Title IX violations by Dr. Nassar because of a former student’s complaint, but the school cleared him of any wrongdoing. The signs were there that Dr. Nassar was assaulting young girls, and the school repeatedly looked the other way.

Another suspicious circumstance is that Michigan State University suspended Dr. Nassar last August before there was widespread knowledge of the first public allegation against him and then fired him in September before any charges were issued. This makes it seem as if the school knew more about possible assaults than it is admitting.

Michigan State University has since conducted new investigations about Dr. Nassar, and while details weren’t provided, the investigators found that he had violated school policies. In addition, the school announced the upcoming outside review of how it handles Title IX complaints. These may be signs that the school is moving in the right direction, but it doesn’t forgive the fact the administration ignored student complaints for years.

Seek Help with Your Title IX Complaint

If you’ve been sexually assaulted on campus, it’s only natural to be afraid to report it, especially in light of all the stories of schools discounting complaints. However, you shouldn’t let this fear stop you from feeling comfortable at your school and seeking justice. You shouldn’t hesitate to call a Title IX attorney to talk about your claim and seek help through the complaint process. A lawyer can protect your rights and will know how to stand up for you, even in the face of doubt from your school.

Call a New Haven Title IX Law Firm for Help

The legal team at Duffy Law in New Haven, Connecticut, is dedicated to helping students around the U.S. with Title IX cases. Everything you tell us is confidential, and we will evaluate your legal options based on your individual circumstances. Please don’t hesitate to call our experienced Title IX attorneys at 203-946-2000 today.

Felice Duffy

Felice Duffy

Attorney At Duffy Law

Attorney Felice Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney for ten years after beginning her legal career at two prestigious firms (one in CT and one in NY) and then clerking for two federal judges. A life-long Title IX advocate, she brought a legal action under the then-new Title IX statute against UCONN while an undergraduate to compel the creation of its women’s varsity soccer program. She went on to become a first-team Division I All-American, was selected to be on the first U.S. National Women’s Team, and spent 10 years as Head Coach of the Yale women's soccer team. Attorney Duffy has Ph.D. in Education/Sports Psychology and has spoken to, and conducted trainings for, over 50 schools and organizations on a wide range of topics involving athletics, the law, and social justice. You can reach Felice at (203) 946-2000.
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