Title IX lawsuit alleges Michigan didn't protect female athlete from male teammate

A former female track athlete at the University of Michigan filed a federal Title IX lawsuit Thursday alleging school officials, including her coach, did not protect her from a male teammate who had been found responsible for sexual misconduct by the Title IX office.

The woman, Kellen Smith, said that her male teammate Blake Washington was not prohibited from coming into contact with her on campus or during track practice, despite a no-contact directive, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Smith said the school's failure to enforce the order and the resulting stress caused her grades to drop, caused her to miss track practice and prompted her to lose her spot on the team, according to the lawsuit.

In January 2018, the university found Washington responsible for violating the school's sexual violence policy after Smith reported in May 2017 that he had touched her without her consent. Washington told school investigators the contact was consensual.

The lawsuit includes several allegations against Michigan track and field coach James Henry, including that he failed to enforce a no-contact directive that the school imposed on Washington. The lawsuit also includes an allegation that Henry told Smith that she "could always quit the team if she wanted to avoid being around Mr. Washington."

The lawsuit also states Henry made offensive comments toward Smith regarding the sexual misconduct, including telling her "that several female track athletes had disclosed being sexually assaulted to him over the years and most were unable to 'handle' being on the track team afterwards."

Also, according to the lawsuit, Henry told Smith she should be "flattered" that Washington had expressed a sexual interest in her, the lawsuit states.

A spokesman for the university declined to comment Thursday, and Henry did not respond to a request for comment. ESPN left multiple phone messages and sent emails to Washington and his attorney, but they could not be reached for comment.

In August 2017, Smith reported the touching incidents to University of Michigan police, who submitted the case to the Washtenaw County prosecutor's office in October 2017, according to a police report obtained by ESPN. In April 2018, prosecutors decided not to charge Washington because the woman was asleep and has no recollection of when the touching occurred, the police report shows.

Smith told police and a university investigator she found out about the alleged incidents in April 2017, when Washington told her in person about what he had done and detailed his actions in a series of text messages.

Washington, who was not interviewed by police, told a university Title IX investigator the touching was consensual and said he sent the text messages after receiving a text from Smith that he described as "setting [him] up," according to Michigan's Title IX report, obtained by ESPN via a public records request.

Last month, Smith asked the Michigan attorney general to review her report after local prosecutors declined to press charges in 2018. A spokeswoman with the attorney general's office said last month that the office did receive the letter and forwarded it to the office's criminal trials and appeals division.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said the office would cooperate if state investigators decide to review the case; he did not comment further on the decision made in 2018 to not file charges.

Washington's last year on the track team is listed as 2018-19, and he is currently a graduate business student at Michigan, according to the university's online directory. He is the older brother of Michigan State University basketball player Brock Washington.

In March, a different woman asked the Michigan attorney general to take over her case after Ingham County prosecutors declined to file charges against Brock Washington, whom she said sexually assaulted her while she was too intoxicated to consent on Jan. 19.

In 2018, Brock Washington pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after a different woman said he groped her and tried to pull her to the floor of her dorm room without her consent.

Earlier this year, the Michigan attorney general's office took over the criminal investigation of a report a woman made to police last year, alleging she was raped by three other Michigan State basketball players in 2015, after the Lansing Township police department determined it did not have the resources to investigate the case.

A Michigan State Title IX investigation -- started in 2018 and finished last year -- did not find the then-former players responsible for violating the school's sexual misconduct policies. The attorney general's investigation into that report is ongoing, and the woman has a pending Title IX gender equity federal lawsuit against the school.