Occidental reaches agreement with students who claimed harassment

Occidental College has reached a confidential agreement with a group of students who said they were sexually harassed by the school's athletic trainer.

John Sweet had worked at the liberal arts campus in Eagle Rock for 37 years. In a federal complaint filed against Occidental, students accused him of making inappropriate remarks and physical contact.

Sweet resigned from his job in March 2013, shortly after the school began an internal investigation. He could not be reached by The Times for comment.

Attorney Irwin Zalkin represents three male students who he said had been in negotiations with Occidental officials over Sweet's alleged behavior. They told administrators in early 2013 that the trainer had touched their groins while helping them during rehabilitation or preparing for games or practices.

"He'd stretch their leg and he would put his hand on their groin," Zalkin said.

Zalkin said the students were not aware when they went to Sweet, 60, that he had undergone sexual harassment training after being accused in 2009 of making inappropriate remarks. Those allegations were first published in the school newspaper, The Occidental Weekly. Administrators have confirmed that the training occurred.

"They were upset that enough had not been done to prevent this guy from doing this" again, Zalkin said. The lawyer declined to disclose terms of the agreement.

College spokesman Jim Tranquada confirmed that the parties had resolved their differences but declined to comment further.

Occidental administrators said they had not seen the federal complaint, in which several others also accused Sweet of inappropriate touching and comments. Students "actively kept away from the training facilities and avoided receiving training from him because of his 'known creepiness,'" according to the complaint.

The college is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly discouraging women from reporting assaults, bungling investigations and failing to disclose assault claims to the federal government. Occidental also reached a monetary settlement late last year with 10 current and former students who made similar complaints.

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