The Nebraska State College System will pay $900,000 in a settlement for inadequately addressing a case of dating violence that resulted in a student’s suicide in 2015.
The settlement comes after the family of Fatima Larios, who died at 19, filed a federal suit in 2017. In addition to the monetary amount, Chadron State College, where Larios attended, promised to implement suicide training for staff and students, hire an outside consultant for its Title IX policy, and establish a scholarship in Larios’s name, among other provisions. The college does not admit to any wrongdoing for Larios’s death.
Before her death, Larios played on the softball team and was in an abusive relationship. The lawsuit says that coaches had observed suspicious bruising on her body and changes in her emotional state. Other students also overheard violent arguments with her then boyfriend.
The coaches reported what they saw, which made its way to the school’s Title IX office. The Title IX coordinator, which was not a full-time position then, emailed Larios the college’s policy on sexual violence but did not meet with her in-person or offer additional resources.
While monetary settlements for Title IX cases are common, the non-monetary aspects of this settlement make the case distinct. These agreements, such as the scholarship fund, illuminate the college’s inadequacies despite it not accepting liability, according to Saunie Schuster, an expert hired by the Larios family.
The college’s Title IX staff showed a clear lack of understanding during depositions, according to Schuster, which likely contributed to the unprecedented settlement.
Both parties claim they were confident that they would win in court, but instead chose to settle to avoid the exorbitant fees and trauma associated with a long trial.
The settlement is important in preserving Larios’s legacy, her family wrote in a statement.
“This settlement ensures that legacy will endure and that she will continue to help others while also making Chadron a safer and more welcoming community,” her family wrote.
Sources: Union Journal Star 05/23/20; Omaha World-Herald 05/22/20