Toledo faces Title IX complaints for failing to address allegations against women's soccer coach

Toledo faces Title IX complaints for failing to address allegations against women’s soccer coach

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The Federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has received multiple complaints about possible violations of Title IX by the University of Toledo, according to a person familiar with the case. The allegations followed a Guardian investigation that involved allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and emotional abuse by a former coach of the university’s football program.

The Office for Civil Rights said it did not comment on specific cases, but it appears, based on internal OCR emails acquired by The Guardian, that one area of ​​concern is how the University of Toledo’s Title IX office failed to adequately address the accusations against ex-wives. football coach Brad Evans when he was informed of an alleged sexual assault on an assistant coach and emotional abuse of players.

Related: ‘Everyone knew his past’: how a coach stayed in football despite worrying accusations

The Guardian may also reveal that the United States Soccer Federation, the sport’s governing body in the US and the only governing body in the US recognized by FIFA, is powerless to intervene in cases of abuse. in colleges and high schools because it has no jurisdiction over the sport at those levels.

The Toledo case has exposed a complex sports system in the United States riddled with loopholes that fails to protect young athletes and coaches from sexual harassment or abuse by authorities. Instead of protecting vulnerable athletes and young coaches, it is the perpetrators and institutions that are protected from accountability.

Alleged harassers and abusers are often not held accountable and may take jobs elsewhere, even with serious accusations hanging over their heads, while a slow process of accountability unfolds or the allegations are mischaracterized or not fully investigated.

“Educational institutions that allow coaches to continue working and interacting with student-athletes after learning of allegations of sexual abuse against them expose themselves to the risk that they acted with willful indifference in violation of Title IX,” said Christina Cheung, Gloria Allred’s partner. at the law firm of Allred, Maroko & Goldberg, she told The Guardian.

Cheung added: “‘Willful disregard’ is a fact-intensive question that varies on a case-by-case basis and generally means that the educational institution acted in a way that is ‘clearly unreasonable in light of all known circumstances’ and the actions of the educational institution were ‘causing students to experience bullying or making them responsible or vulnerable to it’”.

However, Cheung said making a successful Title IX claim against an educational institution is difficult for survivors of sexual abuse to accomplish because of the high legal burden to prove willful disregard.

“Plaintiffs must show that their educational institution acted with willful disregard for known acts of sexual harassment (or) abuse that were ‘severe, pervasive and objectively offensive’ enough to deprive victims of access to educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school. ‘” Cheung added in an email to The Guardian.

Title IX is a multi-tiered federal law passed in 1972 that requires that “no person shall be excluded from participation, denied the benefits, or subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex.” In 1988, then-US President Ronald Reagan vetoed an update to the law, saying the legislation “greatly and unjustifiably expands the power of the federal government over the decisions and affairs of private organizations.” Congress overrode Reagan’s veto. A final consequence of a Title IX violation may be a cut in federal government funding to a university or college, however, this consequence has never occurred in the history of the law.

“The ultimate ramification of a verdict is that a university loses funding, but that has never happened since Title IX was enacted,” said Becca Getson, Director of Legal Services and Advocacy for the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, a defense organization. for survivors of sexual violence. “No university has ever lost its federal funding. Usually there will be an agreement that the university will change what they have done.”

The Department of Education did not respond to repeated requests to confirm this claim.

“Title IX is a federal law and any law is only as good as the enforcement mechanism and policies used to do it,” Getson said. “It really depends on how the institutions enact that, the policies and procedures, and the training that comes from various laws. Filing a complaint is a long-term process. It is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s not months, it’s maybe years. Filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights is like an appeal process for something that did or did not happen.”

While the United States Soccer Federation has no power to address alleged abuses within college and high school soccer, it does have jurisdiction over state federations and most youth soccer clubs. Under another US federal law, the Safe Sport Act of 2017, the USSF delegates reports of abuse to the US Center for Safe Sport.

University of Toledo coach Brad Evans (not to be confused with the former MLS player of the same name) was tipped off to SafeSport in 2019, but it wasn’t until 2022, following The Guardian’s investigation into events at the University of Toledo, which Evans was attached to. to the central disciplinary database of SafeSport.

In addition to coaching college football, Evans was also a coaching instructor at the USSF through the Ohio Soccer Association. Following The Guardian’s report, the USSF canceled Evans’ licenses and removed him from his role as a training instructor. A SafeSport investigation into the allegations against Evans remains open.

“The high school and college soccer programs are not affiliated with US Soccer or the Olympic movement and the high schools and colleges are not members of the US Soccer organization;” a USSF spokesman told The Guardian. “They are not required to follow the statutes or policies of US Soccer.”

Under the Safe Sport Act, US Soccer is required to report allegations of sexual misconduct to the US Center for SafeSport. The Center has exclusive jurisdiction over all allegations of sexual misconduct. US Soccer is prohibited from investigating allegations.

The University of Toledo previously said the institution conducted an investigation following a January 2015 report by a student-athlete of verbal harassment by Evans, who at the time was the head coach of the women’s soccer team.

Contacted by The Guardian about the allegations against Evans, a university spokesperson said: “The investigation found that Mr Evans’ conduct towards student-athletes may have violated the University’s Standards of Conduct policy, however However, the case was not referred for possible disciplinary action because at the conclusion of the investigation in March 2015, Mr. Evans had already resigned from his position as of February 23, 2015.”

The university did not respond to questions about how its Title IX office responded to reports about Evans, including a 2020 report to the university about an earlier alleged assault. According to a spokesperson for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the University of Toledo currently has an investigation pending into a previous complaint of alleged violation of Title IX in addition to the recent complaints. It is not known what that pending investigation includes, but the other complaints involve Evans.

Currently, universities are not required to disclose why a staff member left an institution. The University of Toledo had received multiple complaints against Evans, including sexual assault, but he resigned from his position, claiming to local media that the reason for him was due to an inappropriate relationship with a co-worker. The university made no attempt to correct that narrative or explain why he was the subject of an investigation.

“We see coaches jumping from team to team across the spectrum,” said Caitlin Burke, OAESV Director of Prevention and Public Health. “We see this at the high school level as well and not just in college or professional sports, which is a system-wide problem.

Adds Burke: “You have to have policies that are effective, you have to have procedures that really work. There has to be a culture where the community has everyone on board to identify what is really causing this and not just kick one person out of the system. Part of prevention is looking at those gaps and how policies are working or not working. Part of that is looking at the environment, the culture, or the system that we’ve built to keep this happening.”

  • When previously contacted by The Guardian about the allegations against him, manager Brad Evans responded via email with a statement that read:

    In 2015 I was asked to answer questions about my relationships with some former co-workers. It was clear that my interactions with those co-workers demonstrated poor judgment on my part and were against university policy, and resigning was in the best interest of everyone involved.

    With the help of counseling, I have learned a lot about the causes of my behavior. I am very lucky to have the support of my wife in this process. Together, I continue to learn how to become a better person.

    I am deeply sorry for disappointing so many people, but I keep working to make a positive future.

    Thank you for the opportunity to provide my perspective.

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