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San Jose State botched probe of trainer accused of sexual misconduct, report finds

A sign on the campus of San Jose State University.
(Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)
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San Jose State University and its police department failed to properly respond to or investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against its former head athletic trainer Scott Shaw, according to a report released this week.

The four-page report by the California State University chancellor‘s office concluded that the 2009-10 investigation of the complaints against Shaw was insufficient and that the campus police department did not properly respond to reports filed against him by two student-athletes in 2009.

In December 2009, several female student-athletes reported that Shaw had touched their breasts, groins, buttocks or pubic areas during treatment that was described to them as “trigger-point therapy” or “pressure-point therapy,” according to a report released last year by the U.S. Justice Department.

Federal prosecutors charged Shaw earlier this year with six counts of violating the athletes’ civil rights by allegedly touching their breasts and buttocks without their consent between 2017 and 2020. Shaw pleaded not guilty to all counts and denied all wrongdoing. He faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison if convicted.

In 2021, the university agreed to pay $1.6 million to more than a dozen female athletes as part of a settlement with the Department of Justice that found it failed to properly handle the students’ allegations.

“University leadership will take time to fully assess the report and examine any areas where further improvement may be necessary,” the university said in a statement in response to the report. “We remain grateful to the student-athletes and others who shared their painful stories and the work by various parties to bring information forward.”

The investigator in the 2009-10 probe was provided statements and contact information of 27 student athletes, 17 of whom said they had “suffered questionable conduct at the hands of Shaw,” the review found. But the investigator only interviewed 14 of the athletes, according to the report, and he listed only one athlete as a complainant.

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The athletes said that during the investigation, interviews “focused not on their allegations, but on the validity of Shaw’s pressure point therapy,” according to the report.

“The final investigation report was insufficient given the gravity of the allegations at two pages in length ... and contained little to no discussion or analysis of the allegations,” the review found.

The results of the 2009-10 investigation were shared with Shaw, who was allowed to “remain in his position with little to no limitations,” while the students were unaware of the outcome until an athletic department worker told them that Shaw had been exonerated and his therapy determined to be “appropriate,” the report states.

The athletes said they had “feelings of anger, frustration and regret at having come forward only to be marginalized and ignored,” according to the report. “It is not surprising that the student-athletes did not attempt to re-report or take additional steps to hold Shaw accountable given the summary dismissal they felt SJSU had given their serious complaints.”

The same athletic department employee who notified the athletes about the outcome of the probe raised concerns to the university that the investigation was inadequate and that Shaw had continued to have access to female athletes, the report states. The employee asked the school’s Title IX office to revisit the investigation, but the office ignored the request and failed to follow up on those concerns, the review found.

In December 2009, additional student-athletes on teams that weren’t overseen by Shaw also reported misconduct, but the university failed to investigate those claims, the report found.

A former San Jose State coach was also told by one of his athletes that they had been inappropriately touched by Shaw, the review found. The coach confronted Shaw about the allegations and also informed his supervisor. Neither the supervisor nor the former coach took further action.

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