Notre Dame worker fired after student claims sexual coercion

AP News
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Posted: Nov 02, 2015 5:16 PM

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A University of Notre Dame official said Monday that the school has fired an academic coach after a student complained the woman coerced him into having unwelcome sexual encounters with her daughter.

The firing occurred two weeks before the student's attorneys filed a lawsuit Friday against the coach and university. The student, coach and her daughter, a Notre Dame employee who attends a nearby school, are not named in the lawsuit.

In a statement Monday to The Associated Press, university spokesman Paul Browne denied allegations listed in the lawsuit that university administrators knew or should have known that the academic coach, who is white, was targeting black students, including members of Notre Dame's football and basketball teams.

Browne said the university launched an investigation, which led to the termination, after the black student's claim against the academic coach. However, he described references to student-athletes being involved as being "unfounded," calling them "nothing more than cynical attempt to attract publicity."

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, states the student enrolled at Notre Dame in the fall of 2014 on an academic scholarship and the woman began providing academic support to him in the spring. The lawsuit alleges the academic coach immediately orchestrated a sexually motivated "inappropriate and demeaning relationship," including providing condoms and paying for hotel rooms and asking him about the nature, frequency and quality of sexual activities he had with her daughter.

The lawsuit states the woman made "racially charged comments about his sexual prowess and genitalia."

According to the student's lawsuit, the coach used her position to persuade the student he needed mental counseling, arranging for him to be counseled by another Notre Dame employee who was a friend and confidante of the academic coach. The lawsuit alleges university personnel sought to medicate the student to keep him passive, cooperative and "under control."

In addition, the suit alleges that while the student struggled with the stress, hostile sexual environment and degradation of the situation, the academic coach added to the stress by pressuring him to convert to Catholicism against his will. The lawsuit doesn't specify how she allegedly pressured him into converting or what she did to coerce him to have sex with her daughter, other than saying she "engaged in threatening behavior" when he tried to end the sexual relationship.

The university's standards of conduct states that the university embraces the Catholic church's teachings and that students who engage in sex outside of marriage may be subject to discipline.

The lawsuit states the student was a victim of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, suffered from severe emotional distress, stress and embarrassment and breach of contract because the university failed to provide him with the same educational and academic opportunities and support offered to other students.

Attorney Michael Misch said the student received poor grades stemming from the stress of the situation. He decided to file the lawsuit even after the coach was fired because school officials were unwilling to discuss ways to improve his academic standing, Misch said.