Ex-Baylor Title IX investigator alleges school officials tried to intimidate her

A former Baylor sexual violence investigator who says she experienced delays and intimidation while handling complaints involving football players filed an employment discrimination and Title IX lawsuit Monday against the school.

Gabrielle Lyons was a former investigator in Baylor's Title IX office responsible for handling complaints of sexual violence. She resigned from Baylor in November 2015, just seven months into the job.

In her lawsuit, Lyons alleges that Baylor's "deliberate indifference and intentional retaliation" against her and others in the Title IX office were "designed to create a tense and hostile work environment" to force her and her former boss, then-Title IX coordinator Patty Crawford, to resign.

"I'm filing it not just for me, but for all Title IX employees that should be protected from discrimination and retaliation," Lyons said in an interview Monday. "Title IX employees throughout the country should be given the support, independence and authority to do their jobs."

Lyons' lawsuit follows her and Crawford's filing of Title IX complaints against Baylor with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Lyons filed her complaint in April 2016, and Crawford followed in September. The department opened an investigation into Baylor in October 2016 and it remains ongoing.

Baylor issued a statement declining comment on Lyons' lawsuit when contacted by ESPN.

In an interview with Outside the Lines in January, Lyons said that while fewer than a third of her cases involved football players, she received the most pushback from Baylor officials on obtaining police records and arranging interviews in those cases.

Lyons said she met regularly with top law enforcement officials at Baylor, and she was told during one conversation regarding student-athletes that it was not safe for her to interview certain alleged perpetrators by herself because they have "a potential for violence."

In a statement Baylor released to Outside the Lines in January, the school stated that Lyons' exchange with law enforcement was not as she described.

"Based on feedback they had received from the Title IX office, the officials offered to accompany Ms. Lyons any time she felt a situation might escalate and become difficult for her. They offered the same support to other Title IX staff members -- and it is a service the law enforcement officials also provide to other departments across campus. Far from intending to intimidate Ms. Lyons, the law enforcement officials were trying to do everything they could to help her be successful in her work," the statement read.

Lyons said she believed that the comment about her safety was made to try to intimidate her, which was the basis for an employment discrimination charge she filed Dec. 8, 2016, after initially contacting the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June 2016. On May 31, 2017, the EEOC closed her case, stating that it was "unable to conclude" that there was a violation, but that did not mean that Baylor was in compliance. Lyons' attorney, Rogge Dunn of Dallas, said they had to wait for the EEOC's decision before they could file a lawsuit.

Lyons decided to come out publicly earlier this year after the dispute between Crawford and Baylor played out in the media last fall, with Baylor at one point alleging that some of Crawford's investigators had quit because of difficulties in working for her. Lyons said in a prior interview that she left "because of Baylor's noncompliance. If anything, I always asked for more support for Patty and the Office."

Crawford resigned in October 2016 amid accusations that Baylor was continuing to violate Title IX provisions despite a commitment to enact recommended changes released in May 2016 as a result of the investigation by Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton. The investigation's findings ultimately led to the firing of head football coach Art Briles, demotion of president Ken Starr and suspension of athletic director Ian McCaw. Starr and McCaw would leave Baylor entirely soon after.

Crawford stated that senior leaders, specifically senior vice president for operations and chief financial officer Reagan Ramsower, stood in her way of implementing Title IX and did not adequately fund her office. Baylor officials and Ramsower have denied those allegations, referencing increased Title IX department budgets and salaries, and stating that Crawford's problems stemmed from what they said were a lack of management skills.

It was announced Wednesday that Ramsower would step down from his executive role in May 2018, and would take a position as a professor in Baylor's business school.

"That shows they're not willing to do what it takes," Lyons said Monday of Ramsower's move, which she said should have been a complete exit from Baylor.

Lyons' lawsuit is the ninth Title IX lawsuit to be filed against Baylor in the wake of its sexual assault crisis, and is one of six still active. On Aug. 21, 2017, a female Baylor student filed a Title IX lawsuit against the school regarding how she said the school treated her after she reported being sexually assaulted in April 2017. The university declined to comment on that filing.