Janelle Atkinson Reaches Settlement With Stony Brook In Discrimination Lawsuit

Stony Brook University and former head swim coach Janelle Atkinson reached an out-of-court settlement, Newsday reported Thursday, after Atkinson accused the school of not thoroughly investigating accusations of abuse against the way they would with male coaches.

Atkinson, who was hired as the head swimming & diving coach at Stony Brook prior to the 2017-18 season (which marked the team’s first season since 2013), was fired, along with assistant coach Jordan Bowen, following allegations of emotional abuse by members of the women’s team in January 2018.

In November 2019, Atkinson claimed that the school overreacted to the complaints, saying that Stony Brook terminated her without properly investigating the matter, which she referred to as “demonstrably false,” and added that male coaches in similar situations received support from the school and she was held to “higher standards” than men.

Newsday reports that the two parties reached a $385,000 settlement in the gender and race discrimination lawsuit that was filed in federal court in Central Islip on Monday and approved by U.S. District judge Gary Brown.

As part of the settlement agreement, Stony Brook “expressly denies any wrongful conduct.”

A spokeswoman for Stony Brook and a spokesman for the office representing the university in court both declined to comment, according to Newsday.

Thomas Newkirk, who also represented former Rutgers head coach Petra Martin in a very similar case, said that the settlement was “an important step to free women in college athletics from the burden of gender bias.”

“Janelle is one of 150 female coaches and counting that our firm has identified who have been investigated, suspended or fired for bias-driven complaints about their coaching, when they are all coaching the same as men do every day,” Atkinson said, courtesy of Newsday. “We appreciate SUNY recognizing the challenges facing both Janelle and other women in reaching this settlement and we hope that other universities will heed this call to action.”

Martin was fired suddenly in the fall of 2017 amidst accusations of verbal abuse from her athletes, according to a report from NJ.com. Like Atkinson, she claimed her termination was due to gender bias, saying she was treated differently than male coaches that received similar complaints.

Martin and Newkirk ultimately reached a $725,000 settlement with Rutgers, which included the school having to issue a public statement clearing her of the allegations.

Atkinson, now 39, is a two-time Olympian, representing Jamaica in the pool at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and the 2004 Games in Athens. In 2000, Atkinson became the first Jamaican swimmer to finish in the top four at an Olympics, claiming fourth in the women’s 400 freestyle.

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1 year ago

Imagine thinking that 75% of your swimmers dropped the sport/have lifelong mental and physical injuries and having multiple schools not renew your contract is because you’re a woman…

1 year ago

Congratulations, Janelle!!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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