University responds as Liberty University, Jane Does settle lawsuit over Title IX cases

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 11:17 AM EDT
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LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Liberty University has settled a lawsuit against the school that claimed the university made serious errors in its handling of harassments, sexual assault, rapes and pregnancies of students and employees of the university.

The complaint, filed in the Eastern District of New York, included the testimony of 12 Jane Does. The majority of the plaintiffs identified as students of Liberty University. Others were employees of Liberty University.

The lawsuit, which was filed in 2021, alleged wrongdoing by the university going back to 2005.

It claimed Liberty University created an unsafe campus environment, saying it “has intentionally created a campus environment where sexual assaults and rapes are foreseeably more likely to occur than they would in the absence of Liberty’s policies.”

WDBJ7 reached out to Jack Larkin of Gawthrop Greenwood, PC, the attorney who represented the Does, for comment on the settlement.

“The terms of the settlement are confidential in nature and there’s really nothing I can say about it beyond that the parties to the suit have resolved their differences, and the matter is settled,” Larkin wrote in an email.

WDBJ7 was given this statement from Liberty University:

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 represented by attorney Jack Larkin.

Liberty University can confirm that the institution reached settlement agreements with all the Jane Doe plaintiffs, as well as all but two of the additional Jane Does that attorney Larkin represented. As a result, Mr. Larkin dismissed with prejudice the lawsuit that he had previously filed on the Jane Does’ behalf.

The University can also share that, before attempting to settle, it had already undertaken various initiatives over many months, under the direction of President Prevo and the Board of Trustees.

Some of these initiatives include over $8.5 Million in security upgrades, including the installation of security cameras, blue light boxes, and enhanced campus lighting, along with the launching of a cell phone app for emergency reporting.

The university also launched reviews of, and elected to further enhance, many of its existing policies.  Its ongoing review of the campus Title IX department will result in further strengthening of its policies and procedures, including additional mandatory training for students and employees.  There will also be changes to Liberty’s amnesty policy. The existing policy is now being revised to better communicate — with respect to reports of sexual harassment and/or assault— that Liberty does not discipline parties who engage in behaviors, in connection with that sexual harassment and/or assault, that would have otherwise violated its student honor code.

Liberty also intends to add additional lactation rooms to better support mothers who are members of the University community, and to improve community awareness of accommodations available to those who are pregnant and/or parenting.  In addition to Liberty making donations to community sexual assault response programs, the university is also reviewing its own student counseling services to ensure that there are more services available to the community by licensed mental health providers, including in rapid response scenarios resulting from sexual assault.

Again, the University hopes that the many measures that it undertook prior to the settlement also convey the sincerity and seriousness by which Liberty University is approaching these concerns under the direction of President Prevo and the university’s Board of Trustees.

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