Baylor Must Release Sexual Assault Investigation Documents, Judge Rules

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistAugust 11, 2017

FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2015 file photo, Baylor helmets on shown the field after an NCAA college football game in Waco, Texas. The Education Department's civil rights chief says she's sorry for making
LM Otero/Associated Press

A Texas judge ruled Baylor University must release all information it collected during an investigation into its sexual assault scandal, including data provided to the Pepper Hamilton law firm, which the school hired to review its response to the violence claims.

On Friday, Paula Lavigne of ESPN.com reported the ruling stemmed from one of five Title IX lawsuits Baylor faces in the wake of the scandal.

"Would it be fair to allow Baylor to protect remaining undisclosed details regarding the Pepper Hamilton investigation when it intentionally, publicly, and selectively released certain details of the investigation, including attorney-client communications?" U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman wrote. "The Court concludes, with respect to materials covered by the attorney-client privilege, that it would not."

Phillip Ericksen of the Waco Tribune-Herald provided a statement from the university in response to the judge's order.

"The university appreciates the court's ruling that attorney work product privileges continue to apply in this case," it said. "All of the work product and related materials prepared by Pepper Hamilton is currently protected from discovery, with the provision of the university being required to produce a detailed log of certain work product and to identify witnesses who were interviewed.

"Baylor continues to express concerns regarding the protection of students' personal records, specifically the desire of many students—who are unrelated to this case—that their identities remain anonymous and their information confidential."

Matthew Watkins of the Texas Tribune noted the ruling doesn't mean the documents will be made publicly available, however, adding Baylor has "vigorously fought" to keep the information private.

In May 2016, the Baylor Board of Regents announced widespread leadership changes after reviewing the findings made by Pepper Hamilton. President Ken Starr, athletic director Ian McCaw and head football coach Art Briles all ended up leaving the school in the months that followed.

"We were horrified by the extent of these acts of sexual violence on our campus. This investigation revealed the University's mishandling of reports in what should have been a supportive, responsive and caring environment for students," Board of Regents chair Richard Willis said. "The depth to which these acts occurred shocked and outraged us. Our students and their families deserve more, and we have committed our full attention to improving our processes, establishing accountability and ensuring appropriate actions are taken to support former, current and future students."

In January, Sarah Mervosh of the Dallas Morning News reported a lawsuit filed by a Baylor graduate alleged "at least 52 acts of rape, including five gang rapes, between 2011 and 2014" by 31 football players. Baylor officials declined to comment on the accuracy of those figures.