Six women filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday alleging the University of Tennessee has enabled sexual assaults by student athletes due its student culture and a legal process biased against victims, reports The Tennessean.
The lawsuit accuses five Tennessee athletes of sexual assault: ex-basketball player Yemi Makanjuola, ex-football players A.J. Johnson, Michael Williams and Riyahd Jones and a current football player identified as a “John Doe.” The six women filing the suit are identified as “Jane Does.”
Also included in the suit is an alleged sexual assault by a non-athlete, which a plaintiff says took place after attending a football team party where ex-football player Treyvon Paulk was serving drinks.
The plaintiffs claim Tennessee violated Title IX laws—which are meant to protect students from gender discrimination—in its handling of sex assault cases. The lawsuit alleged Tennessee showed “deliberate indifference and a clearly unreasonable response after a sexual assault that causes a student to endure additional harassment.”
The lawsuit also says Tennessee uses an unfair hearing process for victims because they are subject to cross-examination and an evidentiary hearing in front of an administrative law judge. Athletes accused also allegedly frequently hire prominent Knoxville attorney Don Bosch to represent them.
As evidence that the school has mishandled accusations of sexual assault in the past, the the lawsuit cited a case involving Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning from 1996.
The lawsuit alleges athletic director Dave Hart and football coach Butch Jones were administrators who were aware of sexual assaults by football players “yet acted with deliberate indifference” and “failed to take corrective actions.”
Tennessee is already subject of two Title IX investigations initiated by the federal government after complaints against the school in June and July of last year.