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Former JSU police chief files Title IX complaint of retaliation against university

Giddy leaves

Jacksonville State University police Chief Shawn Giddy shakes hands with Rob Shaffer, another university police officer, after cleaning out his office. Giddy was informed by the university that he was no longer employed there, he said.  Kirsten Fiscus/ The Anniston Star

Jacksonville State University’s former police chief has filed a federal complaint that the institution retaliated against him, following his investigation of an alleged rape on campus by a student-athlete, the chief’s attorney said Wednesday.

In a Wednesday email to The Star, Birmingham attorney Kenny Haynes wrote that his client, Shawn Giddy, had recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights. The complaint comes after Giddy’s recent termination as JSU police chief following his allegations that university administrators interfered with an investigation into a teenager being raped on campus by a student-athlete last year.

“He did file a complaint with the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights for retaliation under Title IX,” Haynes wrote. “That matter is currently under investigation.”

Attempts to reach Giddy for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday.

In a Wednesday statement to The Star, Buffy Lockette, spokeswoman for JSU, wrote that the university wouldn’t comment specifically about the complaint.

“JSU does not litigate personnel issues in the press, although we acknowledge that employees are entitled to seek redress from federal agencies without regard to the merit of their complaint,” Lockette wrote.

A spokesman for the Office of Civil Rights would not confirm or deny that a complaint from Giddy was under investigation on Wednesday. A Department of Education website that shows pending Title IX cases under investigation did not list one against JSU on Wednesday. The website noted, however, that its list was last updated June 29.

Title IX is a law Congress passed in 1972 that prohibits any educational entity that accepts federal funding from discriminating based on sex. In the 1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sexual assault is gender-based discrimination and should be considered under Title IX, and also that schools or universities have an obligation to respond to such allegations.

Also according to the Office of Civil Rights, recipients of federal money, like JSU, are prohibited from intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by federal civil rights law. Once a student, parent, teacher, coach or other individual complains formally or informally to a school about a potential civil rights violation, the recipient is prohibited from retaliating because of the individual’s complaint or participation.

Giddy and another JSU police officer, Carl Preuninger, were placed on administrative leave on Feb. 21, a week after the two made formal complaints of malfeasance by university officials in relation to the rape case. Both officers remained on leave for four months while the university performed an internal investigation.

Giddy’s employment was terminated on June 28, while Preuninger was allowed to return to work.

“It’s one of the bases under the broad rubric of sexual harassment, under the Title IX law … someone is not entitled to be retaliated against,” said Saunie Schuster, an attorney and co-founder of the Association of Title IX Administrators. “If someone in good faith makes a report about discrimination, or has been called as a witness, but is not the person discriminated against but suffers an adverse act brought about by making that report, they are protected against that adverse action.”

Schuster said that when someone makes a complaint to the Office of Civil Rights against a university, the agency visits that institution and looks at its practices and the basis of the complaint.

Schuster said she wasn’t sure how long such an investigation would take. As of March, such complaints took the Office of Civil Rights about 1.9 years to investigate and resolve, Schuster said.

“But under the current administration, they’re streamlining that a ton,” she said. “There’s a big push on OCR to get that resolved quickly … but they seem to be just dropping the cases instead of doing an investigation.”

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.