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Attorney sends letter of intent to AWC to sue on behalf of student
Yuma attorney James Clark said Thursday that he has sent a letter of intent to sue Arizona Western College on behalf of a student for sexual harassment while she worked in the college's football office.
Clark, who is representing a 19-year-old female student and asked she not be identified, explained that the notice is a prerequisite to the filing of a planned lawsuit.
"The college now has 60 days to decide whether to settle the claim," Clark said. "If it is not resolved within that time a lawsuit will be filed in federal court in Phoenix."
The four-page letter of intent, which Clark said was served to AWC on Thursday, is seeking $2 million in damages for unpaid past and future medical bills along with pain and suffering as a result of the alleged harassment.
AWC, as a result of the notice of claim, held a press conference in the District Services Training Room at 7 p.m. on Thursday to address the allegations regarding the misconduct of its former coaches.
"The college is taking these allegations extremely seriously," said AWC President Dr. Don Schoening. "They are very damaging to the college because of the reactions that have occurred. There has also been some harm to several individuals and we are concerned."
Schoening said the college is currently in the midst of an ongoing investigation into the allegations. He said when the college first became aware of the allegations back in late March he asked Bryan Doak, interim vice-president of student services and Gail Perry, director of human resources to look into them.
"It's a sad situation for us. It's not something the college has encountered before at the magnitude of this," Schoening said. "I'm not disputing what the claim has said, just saying there is some conflicting information. We are really trying to determine the truth in every single allegation we have.
"This is a serious problem. We have to be open and honest about what we do," Schoening added.
According to Clark, the harassment, which started in the fall of 2007 when the student was 18 and ended in early 2008, happened when she was employed by the college in its football department under the federal work study program.
As a student working in the football department Clark's client was assigned various duties such as washing jerseys after practices and games. According to Clark, his client, who still attends AWC, now works in a different department.
In addition to naming the college, the notice also names former head football coach James Pryor and former assistant coaches David Slaughter, Shan Williams, James Johnson and Keith Majors.
"There are four assistant football coaches that no longer work for AWC," Schoening said.
Pryor, when informed of the notice, said he was not aware of it and referred The Sun to the college's public affairs office for comment. Pryor resigned as head coach of the football team on Monday but is finishing his contract at the college in another position.
Clark added that he has also filed claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of his client.
"We anticipate they will be conducting an investigation," Clark said. "It's a sad state of affairs. Hopefully the college has corrected the problems."
The EEOC is the federal agency charged with investigating and prosecuting sexual harassment claims of all federal employment opportunity regulations, practices and policies.
"During (her) employment, her workplace was permeated with intimidation, ridicule and perversion that an abusive working environment was created," the notice read. "The conduct was so severe and perverse that it created a work environment abusive to (her) because of her gender, in violation of state and federal law."
That investigation, if it does occur takes a minimum of 180 days according to Clark. He added that the lawsuit against the college won't be filed until after it is completed.
According to the notice of intent, Slaughter, Williams, Johnson and Majors were assistant football coaches and his clients supervisors at the time of the alleged harassment.
The notice states that Slaughter allegedly began a sexual relationship with his client in which he pressured her into having sex with him on college property, including in the coaches office and his apartment on campus.
It also states that in March of 2008, Slaughter asked Clark's client and another girl to come to his apartment, which led to him allegedly having sex with both girls.
As a result of that incident, according to the notice, Clark's client was attacked and beaten by another student athlete who was on the volleyball team, who was also having sex with Slaughter.
An article about that incident ran in The Sun on March 27 and can be viewed online at Yumasun.com. Clark's client was taken to Yuma Regional Medical Center where she was admitted to the hospital for the care of her injuries.
According to the notice Clark's client incurred medical bills which still remain unpaid.
Slaughter, who was in his first year as the wide receivers coach, admitted the relationship with the student-athlete when confronted by the AWC administration and immediately offered his resignation to the school.
In another incident, the notice states that Slaughter, Williams and Johnson had Clark's client come to the coaches' cottage on campus, where they allegedly gave her alcohol and then each proceeded to have sex with her.
Also according to the notice, Majors would allegedly make inappropriate comments to his client, even asking her to go to Long Beach with him, saying that she would look good in a bikini. Majors, who left AWC in January 2008, allegedly continued to call Clark's client until March. He also allegedly asked her to meet him in New York over spring break.
Also in the notice, Williams would allegedly comment about how nice his client looked and began pressuring her to have sex with him.
"(She) needed the job and didn't want to create any problems," the notice stated. "(She) had sex with Williams in the coach's apartment and in the football equipment room."
Perry would not specifically comment on whether the allegations were a factor in the release of any of the coaches, only saying Johnsons and Majors' contracts were not renewed when they expired on Jan. 1 and Williams' was terminated. All of the coaches lived on campus at the time of the allegations.
James Gilbert can be reached at
email@example.com or 539-6854.