Saturday, December 2, 2023

Wyo. lawsuit says school ignored student rape


A high school girl is suing her former Wyoming school district, alleging officials there failed to take her claim that she had been sexually assaulted three times seriously enough to report it, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports.

School officials at Jackson Hole High School and administrators at Teton County School District Number 1 are named in the lawsuit, which argues that “rape culture” is prevalent at the school. “The issue at JHHS is systemic, and the culture, predatory,” lawyers wrote. “Consent is not a value. Coercion is the baseline.”

According to the lawsuit, filed in US District Court for the District of Wyoming on December 30, the girl attended the Homecoming Dance as a freshman in 2017, and a kiss with her date quickly turned into an assault. She was subsequently raped, the lawsuit asserts, a few weeks later by the same classmate, this time at a football game. The boy “continued to hold [her] down and assault her. She pleaded with him to stop. She tried to push him off,” the suit states.

The girl’s grades started to fall after that, and the suit states she was harassed at school frequently, despite February meetings between her parents and school counselors and administrators. School officials learned of the rape at those meetings, along with the girl’s pregnancy and abortion, as they tried to figure out why her grades were suffering and her depression was becoming worse.

A few months later, she attempted suicide, which her family members, thankfully, stopped. After receiving treatment for her mental health, she claims she was raped again, this time by a different student. She has since moved to another state.

It wasn’t until September 2018, the lawsuit states, that the school resource officer received a report of the alleged rape, which happened nearly a year earlier. “When plaintiff reported to TCSD administrators that she had been raped by TCSD students and pled for help, the very administrators that were charged with protecting plaintiff ignored and betrayed her, telling her that ‘boys will be boys,'” the suit states.

The lawsuit challenges school officials’ conduct under Title IX, the US law that prohibits schools from discriminating against students on the basis of sex, and under the legal requirement that school officials immediately report any suspicion of abuse to appropriate child protective or law enforcement officials.

With similar reporting requirements in Indiana, the Indiana Supreme Court held in a similar case in 2014, where administrators took a long time to report suspected abuse, “In sum, it appears from the record as though when time was of the essence, [a school official] dawdled, delayed, and did seemingly everything he could to not contact [child protective services] or the police. It is therefore a reasonable inference to draw, from this evidence, that [the school official] knowingly failed to ‘immediately’ report the child abuse as he was obligated to do by statute.”

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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