Two women sue Boise State over sex assault response

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Two former Boise State University students are suing the school because they say athletic officials ignored their reports of sexual assault and harassment by a star athlete.

The women are represented by nationally known attorney Gloria Allred, who has handled similar lawsuits in several other states. They contend Boise State University athletic officials knew the athlete who abused them had a record of serially harassing and assaulting fellow students, and that the school's failure to take action spurred the athlete to continue the behavior.

The Associated Press typically does not identify victims of sexual assault. The lawsuit doesn't identify the athlete the women say committed the assaults other than to call him a "men's star track and field athlete." BSU officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In the amended lawsuit filed last week, the women say Boise State University officials showed "deliberate indifference" by refusing to take action when the male athlete sexually harassed female track and field athletes in front of coaches.

"The BSU track and field program did nothing about the BSU perpetrator's behavior toward female athletes, even after being told that he had raped a female athlete," Allred wrote in the lawsuit.

Both women were freshman in 2011, recruited by BSU's track and field coach J.W. Hardy and awarded scholarships.

"At the time that the plaintiffs began attending BSU, J.W. Hardy, the head coach of the track and field team, as well as other members of the athletic department, had been provided with information demonstrating that the BSU perpetrator created a sexually hostile environment for females, and/or posed a risk of rape or sexual battery to females," the women contend in the lawsuit.

Boise State University relieved Hardy from his coaching duties in April 2013. The school didn't give a reason, but said it wouldn't renew Hardy's four-year contract, which ran through June of 2013.

Hardy, who is not a defendant in the lawsuit, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The women contend that the male athlete openly spanked the female athletes during practices, and made sexual comments and sexual facial expressions at them, including suggestively biting his lip.

When one woman was raped by the athlete, she reported it to Hardy a short time later, according to the lawsuit.

"Coach Hardy said that he could not help her because she had consumed a minor amount of alcohol before the rape," Allred wrote in the lawsuit. "He failed to inform her of her right to file a criminal complaint against the BSU perpetrator, and even failed to provide her with information regarding available mental health services."

The woman who reported the rape "not only had to see the BSU perpetrator at practices following the rape, she also had to endure open sexual taunting by him at those practices," according to the lawsuit.

The women say the school's failure to act violated Title IX, the federal law designed to protect people from sex discrimination in educational activities, including school athletics.

UPDATE: Boise State has issued a response:

Boise State University leaders are aware of the allegations and have taken them very seriously since first learning of them. Boise State does not tolerate sexual assault or harassment, and in this case took immediate action to eliminate the harassment, prevent its recurrence and address its effects. Our leaders are committed to providing a safe learning environment for all students and have instituted programs and policies to prevent discrimination in all its forms. We also are committed to investigating and addressing complaints when they occur.