Women settle suit alleging Liberty mishandled assault cases

May 11, 2022, 3:49 PM | Updated: May 12, 2022, 9:17 am
FILE - Liberty University's football stadium is empty as students were welcomed back to the univers...

FILE - Liberty University's football stadium is empty as students were welcomed back to the university's campus, March 24, 2020, in Lynchburg, Va. A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit twelve women brought last summer against Liberty University, according to court documents filed, Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit twelve women brought last summer against Liberty University, accusing the Christian institution of fostering an unsafe environment on its Virginia campus and mishandling cases of sexual assault and harassment.

A notice of dismissal filed Wednesday by the plaintiffs’ attorney, Jack Larkin, said the case had been settled but provided no details about the terms.

In a statement Thursday, Liberty said a settlement had been reached with all the plaintiffs and all but two additional women Larkin represented. The university did not disclose the terms of the agreement but outlined a number of other changes it has undertaken in recent months to improve campus security and review how it responds to incidents of sexual harassment or violence.

“Liberty University president Jerry Prevo made it clear when the Jane Does filed their lawsuit that, despite certain claims being potentially outside of the statute of limitations, the university was committed to doing what it could to ‘make things right’ with the plaintiffs,” the statement said.

Larkin did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. But he told TV station WDBJ the settlement terms were confidential.

The development comes as the prominent evangelical school in Lynchburg faces continued scrutiny over its handling of sex assault cases. It is facing other lawsuits that raise similar allegations and recently acknowledged to news outlets that the U.S. Department of Education is reviewing its compliance with the federal Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to maintain and disclose crime statistics and security information.

In a statement, the department acknowledged the oversight work was ongoing but said no further comment would be provided until “the outcome officially has been communicated to the institution.”

The recently settled lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York and made various claims under Title IX, the federal law that protects against sex discrimination in education.

It alleged that Liberty’s strict honor code makes it “difficult or impossible” for students to report sexual violence. It said the university had a “tacit policy” of weighting investigations in favor of accused male students, and it said the university retaliated against women who did make such reports.

The women, former students and employees, all filed suit anonymously and were identified as Jane Doe 1-12. Their allegations spanned more than two decades.

Some plaintiffs in the lawsuit described being raped or sexually harassed and having their cases mishandled or effectively ignored. One woman alleged pregnancy discrimination.

A status report filed in the case in February said that if it was not resolved “amicably” an amended complaint would be filed adding new plaintiffs, including a current student.

In its statement, Liberty said it has spent over $8.5 million on campus security upgrades, including the installation of security cameras, blue light emergency call boxes and enhanced lighting, along with a new cellphone app for emergency reporting.

Liberty said it has made donations to community sexual assault response programs and is reviewing its counseling services to ensure there are more services available from licensed mental health providers, “including in rapid response scenarios resulting from sexual assault.”

The university is also revising its amnesty policy to “better communicate” that it will not discipline parties who engage in behaviors, in connection with a case of sexual harassment or assault “that would have otherwise violated its student honor code.”

Liberty has also been in the spotlight recently for its acrimonious split with former president and chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. in 2020. Litigation between Falwell and the school is ongoing.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Tourists take a selfie in front of the Trevi Fountain, in Rome, Monday, June 20, 2022. Summer trave...
Associated Press

After two pandemic years, a summer travel bounce — and chaos

JERUSALEM (AP) — At a tourism conference in Phuket last month, Thailand’s prime minister looked out at attendees and posed a question with a predictable answer. “Are you ready?” Prayuth Chan-ocha asked, dramatically removing his mask and launching what’s hoped to be the country’s economic reset after more than two years of coronavirus-driven restrictions. When […]
2 hours ago
Tourists take a selfie in front of the Trevi Fountain, in Rome, Monday, June 20, 2022. Summer trave...
Associated Press

After two pandemic years, a summer travel bounce — and chaos

JERUSALEM (AP) — At a tourism conference in Phuket last month, Thailand’s prime minister looked out at attendees and posed a question with a predictable answer. “Are you ready?” Prayuth Chan-ocha asked, dramatically removing his mask and launching what’s hoped to be the country’s economic reset after more than two years of coronavirus-driven restrictions. When […]
2 hours ago
Associated Press

French airport workers strike for higher pay amid inflation

PARIS (AP) — Flights from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and other French airports faced disruptions Friday as airport workers held a strike and protests to demand salary hikes to keep up with inflation. The labor action is the latest trouble to hit global airports this summer, as travel resurges after two years of […]
2 hours ago
A fisherman Ng Koon-hee catches a fish in Tai O village of Hong Kong, Saturday, June 25, 2022. The ...
Associated Press

Hong Kong fishermen keep old ways, 25 years after handover

HONG KONG (AP) — Ng Koon-yau calmly pilots his small fishing boat through the azure waters of the South China Sea. The 79-year-old has been fishing ever since he can remember. Ng and his 76-year-old brother Ng Koon-hee came to Hong Kong from Taishan in Guangdong province, across the border in the Chinese mainland, as […]
2 hours ago
A currency trader walks by the screen showing the foreign exchange rate between U.S. dollar and Sou...
Associated Press

Asian shares mostly lower after pessimistic ‘tankan’ survey

TOKYO (AP) — Asian benchmarks were mostly lower on Friday, echoing a decline on Wall Street, after a quarterly report by Japan’s central bank rekindled worries about the world’s third largest economy. Shares fell in Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney and Shanghai. Markets were closed in Hong Kong for a holiday. Recent data suggest global growth is […]
2 hours ago
FILE - WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for ...
Associated Press

Trial for US basketball star begins in Moscow-area court

MOSCOW (AP) — U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner is set to go on trial in a Moscow-area court Friday, about 4 1/2 months after she was arrested on cannabis possession charges at an airport while traveling to play for a Russian team. The Phoenix Mercury center and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist could face up […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Women settle suit alleging Liberty mishandled assault cases