The Nebraska State College System was recently ordered to pay $900,000 to the family of a student-athlete who took her own life in 2015 as a result of a violent dating relationship in which the school failed to intervene.
The parents of Fatima Lissette Larios filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2017 saying that Chadron State College, where their daughter attended and played softball, failed to meet the requirements set by Title IX when the school failed to prevent the circumstances that led to their daughter's death. The lawsuit said that Fatima was beaten and emotionally abused by her then-boyfriend for months and that their arguments and altercations occurred in her on-campus dorm room, where other students could hear.
Additionally, Fatima's parents said that her softball coaches were aware of bruises all over her body. After seeing the bruises, the coaches informed Chadron State's athletic director, who notified the campus Title IX office. The Title IX coordinator emailed Fatima a copy of the college's policy on sexual violence and harassment and the coaches discussed the policy with Fatima. However, in their lawsuit, Fatima's parents' asserted that the school's efforts were not sufficient to prevent the circumstances that led to Fatima's suicide.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prevents discrimination on the basis of sex at educational institutions that receive federal funding. Over the years, a number of cases have successfully used Title IX to argue that sexual harassment on campus is a form of discrimination, finding that schools have a duty to curtail sexual harassment.
In their lawsuit, Fatima's parents said Chadron State had a responsibility to interview students who saw bruises on Fatima and who overheard the sometimes-violent arguments she had with her boyfriend in her dorm room. They also said the school failed to offer Fatima mental health counseling or a victim's advocate before she took her own life.
Fatima's parents and the university system settled before the case was scheduled for a jury trial. As part of their settlement, the university will pay Fatima's parents $900,000 and the parents agreed to drop their federal lawsuit against the university as well as a wrongful death lawsuit filed in a local court.
For its part, Chadron State agreed to conduct suicide training for faculty, staff, and students every year for the next 10 years. The university will also ask a third-party consultant to review its Title IX policies and procedures every year for the next three years. The university will also establish the "Fatima Larios Spirit Scholarship," to award financial aid to a member of the softball team each year for the next decade and the school will erect and maintain a memorial on campus commemorating Fatima's life for the next decade, as well.
Though financial payouts are not unusual in Title IX cases, the amount awarded to Fatima's parents, particularly in conjunction with the scholarship, memorial, ongoing training, and other concessions, is more than is typically agreed upon in cases like this, which indicates that the university was aware that more could have been done to help Fatima.
Nationwide Title IX Attorney
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped hundreds upon hundreds of clients in various Title IX actions across the United States. If you believe your or your loved one's rights are not being protected or an injustice is taking place, contact the Lento Law Firm today for help at 888-535-3686.