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

BALTIMORE (AP) — The University of Maryland, Baltimore County violated federal regulations by failing to protect students from sexual harassment and discrimination at the hands of the school’s former head swim coach, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation found.

The results of the investigation, which began in 2020, were released Monday. Justice Department investigators found the university failed to comply with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in education.

Swimmers were subjected to a “hypersexualized environment where their coach — on a daily basis, in plain sight, and typically when they wore only speedos — subjected male student-athletes to unwanted sexual touching, inappropriate sexual comments, and other sexual misconduct,” investigators found.

The coach, Chad Cradock, had overseen the university’s Division I swimming and diving program for nearly 20 years before he was placed on leave in October 2020 pending the federal investigation. He died by suicide in March 2021 after receiving an amended notice of the allegations against him, according to the Justice Department report.

In a letter to the university community Monday, President Valerie Sheares Ashby called the investigation’s findings “deeply troubling.”

“We take full responsibility for what happened, and we commit ourselves not only to addressing the failures, but also to rebuilding our community’s trust,” she wrote.

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

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

Despite obvious signs and reports of Cradock’s abusive behavior, university leaders turned a blind eye and allowed it to continue for years, federal investigators found. They said Craddock took advantage of his stature within the university community and preyed on vulnerable students, controlling nearly all aspects of their college experience.

Meanwhile, female swimmers experienced a different type of hostile environment, including sexual harassment from their male counterparts, degrading comments about their bodies and invasive questions about their sex lives, the investigation 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 for UMBC to have done 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 alleging Title IX violations in a case that remains ongoing.