Allegheny College sued for Title IX violation, negligence

Allegheny College is being sued for violation of Title IX, negligence, interference with contractual relations and emotional distress. The woman who filed the lawsuit alleges that a member of the college’s football team sexually harassed her on numerous occasions, and despite notifying an assistant coach on the team, the allegations were never investigated as required by Title IX.

The suit claims that in the spring of 2018, Samantha Simonetta, ’21, former member of Allegheny’s football team, began receiving “unwelcome sexual advances” from at least one of her teammates, including “explicit and inappropriate sexual comments to her,” the suit alleges. 

Upon reporting the unwelcome sexual conduct, Simonetta was assured by Head Assistant Coach Curtis Bailey that Head Coach William Hammer would be notified of the misconduct. 

“Ms. Simonetta trusted that Defendant Bailey would take the steps required,” the suit alleges. 

The suit alleges Simonetta continued to face gender-based discrimination throughout the Spring 2018 semester and into Summer 2018. Once football practices resumed in March 2018, Simonetta was given a practice jersey but was not given a jersey number like her teammates, and was not granted access to the locker room. 

In April 2018, the suit claims that despite having a grade point average that was “sufficient for her to remain eligible to participate (on the football team),” Bailey placed Simonetta on academic probation. The suit alleges this probation was against the college’s policies. 

In May 2018, Simonetta emailed Bailey with information about her grades improving and received no response, the suit claims. Later that month, Simonetta sent Bailey proof of her improved grades via email and again received no response, according to the suit. 

In July 2018, Bailey emailed Simonetta with the suggestion that she act as a team manager rather than a player, since, Bailey said, she had to wait until the end of the fall semester to return as a player, the suit alleges. 

Simonetta and her parents met with Hammer, Bailey, Director of Athletics and Recreation Bill Ross, Assistant Coach Andrew Fragale and Nikki Newman, who was a “Third Party Witness to the incidents alleged in the Complaint,” according to the suit, in August 2018. 

During the meeting, Simonetta and her parents discovered that, while Bailey had assured Simonetta that he informed Hammer of the sexual harassment Simonetta experienced during the spring of 2018, “it was ultimately revealed during this meeting that this was a lie,” according to the suit. 

In September 2018, another former teammate “inappropriately touched” Simonetta, attempting to “kiss her without her consent” and to pull her into his dormitory room, though he was unsuccessful, according to the suit.

In the fall of 2018, Simonetta learned “that other members of the College’s faculty were aware of previous incidents of sexual misconduct by the perpetrating teammate,” according to the suit. Simonetta “formally pursued action through the College against this student,” the suit said, which, on Dec. 17, 2018, resulted in a finding “that her former teammate had violated the College’s Policy Against Discriminatory and Sexual Harassment, Including: Sexual Assault and Other Forms of Sexual Violence, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence and Stalking,” according to the suit.  

Allegheny officials declined to comment on the matter.