Boise State Called Unfeeling to Sexual Assault
BOISE, Idaho (CN) - A Boise State University student-athlete was sexually assaulted and taunted by a male teammate, but the head track coach "refused to take any action and told her he 'could not help,'" the woman claims in court.
Megan Opatz sued Boise State University and John Does I through X in Ada County Court. They are the only named defendants.
Megan Opatz, a sophomore, is a scholarship athlete from Scottsdale, Ariz. where she says she was recruited by Boise State head track coach J.W. Hardy.
She claims in the lawsuit that in March 2012, during her freshman year at Boise State, "she was sexually assaulted by a fellow student on Boise State University's track and field team."
She says she "sought assistance" from Hardy, who "refused to take any action and told her he 'could not help.'"
The complaint continues: "Ms. Opatz later learned that another female track student had been sexually assaulted by the same student and had also reported her attack to Mr. Hardy prior to Ms. Opatz's sexual assault. Ms. Opatz learned that Mr. Hardy similarly refused to take any action to this female student's report to him. The refusal to take action, in light of Ms. Opatz's complaint and in light of this prior complaint, were the result of a policy of deliberate indifference on the part of the athletic department or key members of the athletic department toward the requirements of Title IX. Plaintiff believes that the athletic department or key members of athletic department had implemented a policy of protecting athletes who had been accused of sexual assaults in order to protect the athletic department, which was seen as more important than complying with the law."
Opatz adds: "His continued presence on campus itself has given rise to a hostile educational environment, which the attacker compounded by openly taunting Ms. Opatz during practice"
Opatz seeks damages for Title IX violations, sexual harassment, discrimination, hostile educational environment, failure to investigate and discipline, and deliberate indifference.
"Sexual harassment of students can be a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX," Opatz says in the complaint. "The Office for Civil Rights has long recognized that sexual harassment of students engaged in by ... other students, or third parties is covered by Title IX."
She claims that Boise State's athletic department follows its own internal policies and processes rather than federal law.
She says Hardy's refusal to take action on the complaints is "the result of a policy of deliberate indifference on the part of the athletic department or key members of the athletic department toward the requirements of Title IX."
Boise State's Associate Vice President for Communications and Marketing, Greg Hahn, told Courthouse News the university could not comment except to say it properly responded to the reports.
"Boise State University leaders have taken these disturbing allegations seriously since they first heard them, and feel they have taken timely and appropriate steps from when they became aware of the issue. We cannot comment further at this time," Hahn said in an email.
Opatz's local attorney Grant Burgoyne, of Mauk Miller & Burgoyne, who is also a state House representative for Idaho's District 16, was in legislative session and did not returned a phone call this week.
Co-counsel Gloria Allred and Christina Cheung, of Allred Maroko & Goldberg in Los Angeles, said they could not comment on the lawsuit.
Opatz says in the complaint that universities are required to "take proactive measures to prevent sexual harassment and violence" under Title IX and that "from the perspective of a rape victim, the mere presence of a rapist as a student on campus gives rise to a sexually hostile atmosphere."
The complaint describes the "harassment" suffered by Opatz as "severe," "pervasive" and "objectively offensive."
Opatz, whose name does not appear on Boise State's 2013-2014 track and field roster, also seeks an injunction, costs and attorney's fees.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Deborah Bail.