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Maryland university failed to protect students from abusive swim coach, violating Title IX, feds say

BALTIMORE– The University of Maryland, Baltimore County violated federal regulations by failing to protect students from sexual harassment and discrimination by the school’s former head swimming coach, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation has found.

The results of the study, which began in 2020, were released Monday. Justice Department investigators found that the university was not in compliance with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

Swimmers were subjected to a “hypersexualized environment in which their coach — on a daily basis, in plain sight, and usually while wearing only speedos — subjected male student-athletes to unwanted sexual touching, inappropriate sexual comments and other sexual misconduct,” researchers said. found it.

The coach, Chad Cradock, had overseen the university’s Division I swimming and diving program for nearly two decades before being placed on leave in October 2020 pending the federal investigation. According to the Justice Department report, he died by suicide in March 2021 after receiving an amended notice of the charges against him.

President Valerie Sheares Ashby called the study’s findings “deeply disturbing” in a letter to the university community on Monday.

“We take full responsibility for what happened, and we are committed not only to addressing the failures, but also to rebuilding the trust of our community,” she wrote.

She also said university leaders will soon sign an agreement with the Department of Justice detailing “critical changes in how the university responds to reports of sexual misconduct and discrimination.”

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, located in the suburbs of Baltimore, has a student population of approximately 14,000. Title IX applies to educational institutions and programs that receive federal funding.

Despite clear signs and reports of Cradock’s abuse, university leaders turned a blind eye and allowed it to continue for years, federal investigators found. They said Craddock abused his status within the university community and targeted vulnerable students, controlling nearly all aspects of their college experience.

Meanwhile, female swimmers experienced a different kind of hostile environment, including sexual harassment by their male counterparts, demeaning comments about their bodies and invasive questions about their sex lives, the study found. Craddock, who oversaw both teams, favored the men while encouraging romantic relationships between male and female swimmers.

“Too many school officials and administrators knew something that caused UMBC to do nothing,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement Monday.

Six former college swimmers sued the university in federal court last year for Title IX violations in a case that remains ongoing.