In September of 2016, Tucson police arrested Orlando Bradford, a University of Arizona football player for assaulting a woman and holding her hostage for two days. The next day, a UA student went to the police and told them that Bradford had repeatedly hit and choked her throughout their relationship. Eventually, police charged Bradford with more than a dozen counts of domestic violence. He later pled guilty to two assault charges – one for each woman reporting him – and is serving a five-year sentence in prison.
The student who made the second complaint to the police about Bradford went on to sue the UA in 2018, claiming the university already knew that Bradford was a danger to students on campus, but they failed to take action. She alleged that the university was deliberately indifferent to the danger, violating its legal obligations under Title IX to keep the campus free from sexual harassment. In preparing the case, her attorneys found a handwritten note from an administrator indicating that the university knew about additional assault allegations against Bradford six months before his arrest. In resolving the lengthy litigation, the University of Arizona reportedly paid the student $1.275 million.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law enacted by Congress as part of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq. The law prohibits sex discrimination for federally funded schools in things like admissions, athletics, and employment. Over the last 40 years, Title IX has grown to include sexual assault and harassment, including intimate partner violence and stalking. Title IX applies to all educational institutions that accept federal funds, including public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.
Title IX regulations require the University of Arizona to investigate and take necessary remediation regarding any allegation of sexual violence. The university had this obligation if it knew, or reasonably should have known, about the violence, regardless of whether any of the women involved made a formal complaint. The university's obligation also existed whether or not the police were simultaneously investigating.
New Title IX regulations promulgated by the Department of Education in June of 2020 changed the definition of sexual harassment. The regulations, which go into effect in August of 2020, require schools to investigate, “unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would determine is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school's education program or activity.” However, the new definition of sexual harassment expressly includes “sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking,” of the type that occurred in this case.
The new Title IX regulations clarify the role universities must play when sexual assault or intimate partner violence occurs among students. However, this unprecedented settlement may push colleges to be even more vigilant in investigating credible Title IX claims and protecting students. If you or your child is facing a Title IX investigation, even if the police are not involved, you should consult an attorney as soon as possible.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is highly-experienced in Title IX claims and he has successfully resolved hundreds of Title IX cases at schools across the country, through negotiation and the Title IX hearing process. Call the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.