March 21, 2022

USA: Longtime San Jose State University Athletic Trainer Sports Medicine Director Charged With Civil Rights Violations By Dept Of Justice For Sexually Assaulting Female Student-Athletes In His Care.

USA Today
written by Kenny Jacoby and Rachel Axon
Thursday March 10, 2022

A former top San Jose State University athletic trainer accused of sexual misconduct toward nearly two dozen female athletes during his nearly 15-year tenure at the school was charged Thursday with civil rights violations connected to at least four of those women.

Scott Shaw, 54, allegedly touched four female athletes beneath their undergarments, massaging their breasts and buttocks, under the guise of treatment and without their permission, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday. The agency said the incidents occurred between 2017 and 2020.

"Shaw, as a state employee for the California State University system, is further alleged to have acted under color of law when he sexually assaulted the victims," the press release stated.

The criminal charges against Shaw only cover the abuse from the last five years, which an FBI spokesman told USA TODAY was due to the statute of limitations expiring in the cases of the other women.

Shaw will appear to face charges in U.S. District Court in San Jose on a date to be determined. The counts carry a maximum of six years in prison if convicted.

"It’s a relief to finally be acknowledged," Linzy Warkentin, a former San Jose State swimmer who alleged Shaw sexually abused her more than a decade ago, told USA TODAY. "For some girls, the fact that they were told (by the school) that this sexual assault was OK has affected their relationships for the past decade. Perhaps they can finally start to heal from that."

The criminal case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's field office in San Francisco. It will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Pitman of the Northern District of California and Special Litigation Counsel Fara Gold of the criminal section of the D.O.J's Civil Rights Division.

USA TODAY first reported about Shaw in April 2020 when it revealed that SJSU began quietly reinvestigating a decade-old claims that he had inappropriately touched female athletes who came to him seeking treatment for sports-related issues.

The university had reviewed the swimmers’ allegations in 2010 but cleared Shaw of wrongdoing, saying that his treatments – which he’d described to the athletes as “pressure point” or “trigger point” therapy – constituted a scientific and accepted method of treatment for muscle injuries.

Shaw was never disciplined, arrested or charged, and he remained in his position as sports medicine director for the next 10 years, during which time he continued to treat and, according to the D.O.J., sexually abuse female athletes.

San Jose State opened a second investigation into Shaw in December 2019, after San Jose State’s longtime swim coach, Sage Hopkins, circulated a nearly 300-page document among university, Mountain West and NCAA officials that detailed the allegations, the school’s response, and his claims of retaliation against him and his team for reporting and re-reporting them.

That investigation, which an outside investigator hired by the California State University system conducted, found Shaw responsible in February 2021 for sexual misconduct toward 10 athletes who participated in the investigation.

In September, an investigation by the D.O.J.’s civil rights division found San Jose State violated Title IX for more than a decade by mishandling the women’s complaints, and that additional athletes endured Shaw’s abuse as a result.

“This harassment was preventable,” the DOJ said at the time. “The heightened risk of sexual harassment within SJSU Athletics was known, but in neither its 2009-10 or 2020-21 investigations, nor in the intervening years when employees reminded SJSU of the ongoing threat, did SJSU take necessary steps to identify the scope of the problem or the extent of the victims, or reasonable steps to prevent the harassment from recurring.

“SJSU’s actions gave the Athletic Trainer unfettered access to student-athletes and led students to feel that further reports of sexual harassment would be futile.”

The DOJ also found that San Jose State instructed Shaw in January 2020 not to treat athletes, but Shaw ignored those instructions. Shaw “engaged in unwelcome sexual touching” only a month later, and was temporarily suspended with pay later that year, after that current athlete came forward. The university had failed to enforce other similar directives in the years since the initial investigation, the DOJ found.

The school entered into a settlement agreement with the D.O.J. that required it to change its athletic department and Title IX policies, hire additional staff, undergo monitoring by the DOJ, and pay $125,000 each to the women Shaw abused.

At least 13 of the athletes accepted the money. Other athletes continued to pursue a lawsuit against San Jose State and ultimately settled with the school for $5 million, including attorney fees.

Shaw came to San Jose State as an associate head athletic trainer in 2006. He served as the women’s swimming and diving team’s primary trainer at the time and continued working with the team after his promotion two years later to sports medicine director, a position he still holds.

Allegations against him first surfaced in December 2009, when swim coach Sage Hopkins alerted university administrators that 17 of his swimmers described alleged inappropriate treatment by Shaw. After meeting with his team, Hopkins typed and emailed summaries of the swimmers’ accounts to university administrators.

According to the notes, 14 said Shaw had put his hands under their bras, in many cases massaging their breasts and sometimes exposing their nipples. One said Shaw touched her breasts without going under her bra, while another said Shaw placed his hands within a half-inch of her nipple. Five said Shaw touched them beneath their underwear.

In addition to the swimmers, athletes from two other San Jose State women’s teams described similar encounters with Shaw from around the same time.

Kirsten Trammell, a junior swimmer at the time, told USA TODAY that Shaw performed trigger-point therapy when she saw him for an injured hip. He reached his hands beneath her underwear and pressed into her groin, she said.

Warkentin, a junior during the investigation, said Shaw treated her about three times a week for two years after she suffered an elbow injury as a freshman. During that time, she grew to like and trust him, she said.

But Warkentin said Shaw without explanation switched to using trigger-point treatments, which entailed him placing his fingers under her sports bra and pressing her breast.

“I remember laying there and being like, ‘Oh my god. Either he can see my nipple, because his hand is lifting up my bra, or he’s about to touch it,’” Warkentin said. “It was not comfortable.”

James Borchers, a physician and president of the U.S. Council for Athlete’s Health who served as an expert witness in the investigation, determined Shaw’s treatments were “improper” and “questionable in the most conservative manner,” according to a copy of the preliminary findings report from November obtained by USA TODAY. Borchers added that they “raise a significant suspicion for inappropriate behavior.”

According to Borchers’ testimony, Shaw disregarded normal procedures by failing to explain, justify, properly document and obtain informed consent for his treatments, which he performed without offering a chaperone and without proper oversight, certification and training. Additionally, Borchers said massaging the breast and groin area is generally inappropriate absent clear medical circumstances necessitating such contact, and it is “not ethical to reach under clothing in a sensitive area in any situation.”

“In conclusion, there is no reasonable evidence or explanation for the actions of the athletic trainer described in this report,” Borchers wrote in a four-page analysis. “The treatments, behavior of the athletic trainer and consistent pattern associated with both as described by the student-athletes are at the very least unethical and disturbing.”
Mercury News, San Francisco local
written by Julia Prodis Sulek, Bay Area News Group
Monday March 21, 2022

Students, professors irked that Mary Papazian could return as English professor.

SAN JOSE – The moving trucks pulled up to the San Jose State University President’s House in the Rose Garden neighborhood this past week, three months after Mary Papazian resigned in the wake of sexual abuse scandal that rocked the school’s athletics department.

But that doesn’t mean she’s moving on.

Papazian is being paid nearly $300,000 over the next year as part of a special deal from the California State University system to prepare for what could be her next role on campus: teaching undergrads about Renaissance-era English poets.

Would she be welcomed back? Papazian’s potential return to campus is creating consternation among students and even some faculty in the English Department, and her perk of being paid six figures as part of CSU’s Executive Transition Program is raising even more questions.

“I find it strange, and a little uncomfortable,” said child development major Arianne Holodnik as she walked across campus Thursday. “It’s like you resign in disgrace, but you haven’t fallen that far. It’s like a pat on the back, a reward for not doing something she was supposed to do.”

As freshman Hannah Martine put it, “usually, a teacher is someone you can look up to and respect.”

Papazian resigned in December after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report on the administration’s handling of the scandal for which the university agreed to pay out nearly $5 million in settlements to former female athletes. Federal investigators last fall concluded the women had been inappropriately touched by the school’s former head athletics trainer during sports massages.

San Jose State’s former president isn’t the only high-profile CSU leader taking part in the executive transition program. So is Joseph Castro, who abruptly resigned last month as CSU’s chancellor, facing claims he mishandled years of sexual harassment, retaliation and bullying complaints against an administrator when he was president at Fresno State University. He is receiving $400,000 this year, and like Papazian, health insurance and other benefits that accrue to their pensions.

Papazian didn’t respond to requests for comment on what she plans to do next. The former English professor at Oakland University in Michigan is considered a scholar of English Renaissance literature. In an email to the Los Angeles Times last week, she implied she was preparing for a return to teaching as part of her so-called “retreat rights.”

“I am using the transition year,” she said, “to reconnect with my discipline, rethink my research and writing agenda, and prepare for my engagement with a learning environment and a new generation of students very different from that from which I stepped away over 20 years ago.”

The prospect of her taking a professorship at San Jose State is getting a mixed reaction within the English Department.

Shannon Miller, dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts, said in an email Thursday that she wasn’t certain whether Papazian would, indeed, return, “but I am sure that her colleagues would be delighted to have as well-published a Miltonist and Donne scholar, with many years of successful teaching, join the department.”

English professor Mary Warner said that while she hasn’t followed the scandal closely and empathizes with the female athletes, she believes Papazian was an otherwise “wonderful president” and Warner “would be happy” for her return.

“To me, her resignation was a surprise and she inherited something that was a difficult thing,” Warner said. “I have empathy for her.”

Those feelings are not universal, and some professors are “very angry” about the prospect of a Papazian redux, said fellow English professor Linda Mitchell.

“If you’re paid the big bucks to be president, then you’ve got to handle the situations – you can’t sweep them under the rug,” Mitchell said. “I might not like it when they resign under a cloud and get a lot of money. But life is not always fair.”

Papazian arrived on campus in 2016, seven years after 17 female swimmers first came forward accusing then-head athletic trainer Scott Shaw of touching them under their bras and underwear under the guise of treatment. An in-house investigation in 2010 quickly cleared him, declaring his “trigger point therapy” was a bona fide treatment, and he was allowed to continue working on female athletes largely unfettered for the next decade.

Papazian had initially said that she opened a new investigation as soon as she heard about the allegations in 2019. But a long-secret memo obtained by the Bay Area News Group last month made clear that she was warned about Shaw the first week she arrived on campus three years earlier. During Papazian’s tenure, at least four other female athletes came forward with similar accusations about Shaw, who was charged this month with federal criminal charges of sexual misconduct and faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

Papazian’s salary reached $403,000 when she resigned and she will collect another $290,580 through Dec. 11, 2022, as part of the CSU transition program.

Her payout and the faculty job offer especially irked former Deputy Athletics Director Steve O’Brien, who was fired in 2020 after refusing orders from former Athletic Director Marie Tuite to discipline Sage Hopkins, the women’s swim coach who kept up a decade-long crusade to expose Shaw and his superiors’ refusal to act.

O’Brien is now working in alumni relations at Santa Clara University and said his termination stunted his career goals of becoming a Division I athletic director.

While O’Brien said he was reluctant to complain – “the student-athletes have suffered the greatest injustice because of this” – his career has been “upended.”

“Why is the person that did the right thing in this story suffering a worse fate than the person who didn’t do the right thing?” O’Brien asked.

In an interview last month with this news organization, Papazian said she “did what was right with the information I had at the time,” and when she first learned about the allegations and the 2010 investigation that cleared Shaw, she believed “the case was closed.” No new victims came forward until years later.

Mitchell, the English professor, said she is not convinced Papazian will take a faculty position, after all.

“When you’re under that cloud,” Mitchell said, “sometimes it’s better to move on, don’t you think?”

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