The family of a student who says she was sexually assaulted by a classmate is suing the Teton County School District for alleging ignoring the subsequent harassment and bullying levied against their daughter.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court last month on behalf of the student and her mother, neither of whom are named. It alleges that the girl was raped by a classmate in 2017 and that her mental health deteriorated rapidly after the assault. The student was then verbally harassed by another classmate, abuse that received no response from the district, despite the student’s mother providing proof of the abuse, the suit alleges.
“No child should be treated and betrayed the way Jane Doe was by Teton County School District and the Jackson Hole High School administration,” said Kaden Canfield, the attorney representing the family. “Basic humanity would provide survivors, like Jane Doe, with our compassion and support. Minimizing, victim blaming, and retaliating against survivors is completely unacceptable, especially in the educational setting and especially by those with the authority and responsibility to stand up for survivors. Not only is better required by the Constitution, but here, in the Equality State, we should expect better.”
A message sent to the district’s private attorney was not returned Monday. The district has yet to file a response to the lawsuit responding to the allegations.
The student later spent time in an inpatient treatment facility for “self-harm behavior,” according to the suit. In therapy in early 2019, the student eventually described the sexual assault; she later told her parents and then administrators at Jackson Hole High School.
The suit acknowledges that, up to that point, school officials were not aware of the assault, though they were allegedly aware of verbal harassment levied at the student that began after the alleged rape. The suit goes on to allege that the district offered to move the victim out of certain classes to avoid her alleged assailant, who later denied to police that he had raped the girl and accused her of making up the accusation.
Central to the lawsuit is the allegation the district did not conduct its own investigation, did not respond to repeated instances of bullying and harassment that the victim continued to face as a result of coming forward, and that it did not have the appropriate systems in place to investigate and handle such a serious report, which — the suit alleges — also violated federal law.
The harassment alleged in the suit includes false reports made against the victim of threats, including that she was a potential school shooter, and that she had attempted to break in to her alleged assailant’s home (the suit states that she wasn’t even in town during the supposed break in attempt). At one point, the suit alleges, school administrators told the victim that she was the “aggressor” in relation to another student who was harassing her. In another meeting, an administrator gave the victim an order to have no contact with her alleged assailant; the administrator had prepared no such order for the assailant and only agreed to produce one after her mother insisted, the suit alleges.
The victim did admit to cutting the laces on her alleged assailant’s shoes; she later replaced them.
The lawsuit further alleges that administrators had little knowledge of federal law governing sexual harassment, assault and discrimination.
At a meeting with the victim’s mother, administrators “informed (the mother) that they were unfamiliar with Title IX or how it applied in the situation. They told (the mother) that no investigation had been performed into (the assailant’s) rape of (the student).”
Title IX is the provision in federal law providing protections for gender-based harassment.
Further, the suit alleges that the district conducted a “random” check on the victim’s residency, effectively an attempt to see if she really should’ve been enrolled in Teton County schools. The administrator conducting the check allegedly told the mother that “he had not performed a residency check on all the other families of TCSD students similarly situated as (the victim’s) family.”
The student and her brother were later informed that they could not continue attending Teton County public schools because of where they lived. They were then removed from the district.
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