Nebraska State College System to pay $900,000 to settle lawsuits after softball player's suicide

The Nebraska State College System will pay nearly $1 million to the family of a former Chadron State softball player to settle two lawsuits that alleged the college failed to prevent dating violence that led to the student’s suicide, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

A federal lawsuit filed in 2017 alleged that Fatima Lissette Larios was beaten and emotionally abused by her then-boyfriend, who was also a student at Chadron State, for months. It detailed incidents of violent and loud arguments in a campus dorm room that could be heard by others, and that Larios’ coaches observed “suspicious bruising … that included handprints” on her body and emotional changes in her, per the Lincoln Journal Star.

The coaches told the athletic director, who notified the Title IX office at the school. The coordinator then emailed Larios a copy of the school’s policy on sexual violence and harassment. Larios also discussed her situation with coaches.

Larios’ parents said in the complaint that the school failed “to respond to reports of sexual violence or sex harassment and attend to the needs of the student involved,” per the report. They also allege that the school fell short in its responsibilities to interview students who saw the bruises on Larios and overheard the violent or loud arguments, and failed to offer the 19-year-old mental health counseling before she committed suicide in 2015.

To settle the two lawsuits, the Nebraska State College system will pay the family $900,000, per the report. It will also establish the “Fatima Larios Spirit Scholarship” and install a memorial on campus. 

An attorney for the state college system told the Associated Press that it was confident no wrongdoing would have been proven in court, however the school wanted to avoid the costs associated with a trial and “bring closure to the family, employees of Chadron State College, and her classmates.” 

"Both on the field and off, Fatima was dedicated to inspiring, mentoring and championing her teammates and friends," her parents and stepfather said in a statement, via the Journal Star. "This settlement ensures that legacy will endure and that she will continue to help others while also making Chadron a safer and more welcoming community."

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