Tennessee settles Title IX lawsuit

Nashville, TN, United States / The Game Nashville
Tennessee settles Title IX lawsuit

The University of Tennessee has agreed to terms of a financial settlement for a lawsuit originally filed on February 9th of this year asserting that the educational institution violated Title IX regulations.

The federal suit brought by a group of eight women (six when it was initially filed; amended to eight on Feb. 14)  declared that the university had knowingly acted with nonchalance in its internal handling of  sexual assault cases by student-athletes, namely football players. These eight women alleged that, because of Tennessee’s inaction with regards to the behavior of their student-athletes, the school had created a “hostile sexual environment.”

According to ESPN Senior Writer Mark Schlabach, ESPN retrieved court documents stating that the university will pay the eight women $2.48 million, a sum that also includes the cost of the plaintiffs’ attorney fees. 

In addition to the financial reconciliation, The Tennessean‘s Anita Wadhwani and Nate Rau reported that the school will implement a “special independent commission.” The commission’s purpose will be to further examine responses to allegations of sexual assault at all institutions under the UT umbrella.

With the acceptance of the the settlement by the plaintiffs, the complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will be withdrawn. The agreement also specifies that the university admits no guilt, negligence or unlawful acts.

David Randolph Smith, the Nashville attorney representing the plaintiffs in this case, released a statement following the news that his clients would be accepting the terms of UT’s settlement and dismissing the lawsuit brought against the university.

“My clients and I are dismissing the lawsuit with prejudice and signed the settlement agreement,” Smith told ESPN.com. “We are satisfied that, while universities everywhere struggle with these issues, the University of Tennessee has made significant progress in the way they educate and respond to sexual assault cases. My clients and I are also convinced that the University’s leadership is truly committed to continue its exemplary efforts to create a model as it relates to sexual misconduct.”

Tennessee football coach Butch Jones and athletic director Dave Hart have yet to comment on the most recent development in the litigation.

Information from The Tennessean and ESPN.com contributed to this report.     

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