Spokane High School is at the center of a disturbing lawsuit. The plaintiff accuses school officials of covering up the sexual assault of his child, a student. Three boys raped the child in the dugout of the baseball field before shoving a used condom into his mouth.
The vicious attack proved to be just the start of the child’s troubles. After the rest of the school learned what happened he was bullied so badly he asked his older sister to walk him to class. Administrators sentenced the rapists to a five-day suspension which was later commuted to three. All of them were allowed to remain on the baseball team.
“We cannot comment on matters of litigation,” Spokane school district Superintendent Terry Jamieson, said. “We are cooperating fully with all aspects of the investigation… I am putting the safety and security of students as our No. 1 priority.”
The suit alleges that five students were present during the assault. Three attackers and two witnesses.
The Daily Mail reports:
“Teachers were made aware of the suspected abuse by another student in the school, but then the other teen was targeted for reporting the allegations. The state’s Children’s Division began investigating after a group of teachers made a hotline call… the office demanded the district turn over all of its records concerning the two incidents, but school officials initially refused, complying only after detectives threatened to get a warrant. The suit also alleges that district officials warned students that authorities were investigating.”
It’s shocking how cavalierly the incident was treated by Spokane officials. The victims’ stories are horrific. The school put the entire student body at risk by ignoring multiple rapes. Three officials have been named in the lawsuit: former superintendent Daryl Bernskoetter; former teacher and coach Zach Leonard, who left the district earlier this year; and Spokane High school Chris Kohl. Kohl was placed on administrative leave last week.
According to the parent who filed the lawsuit, the school treatment of his son led to”pervasive name calling of his son and the other alleged victim… other students “physically blocked” access to his son’s locker and attempted to intimidate him in the hallways and on the baseball field. The bullying included threatening messages…”
“While recent months have brought to light how colleges are struggling to deal with sexual assault on their campuses, high schools and even middle schools are also facing challenges. Secondary school educators are unsure and ill-trained when it comes to handling allegations that one student has assaulted another, which they are legally required to report to the police,” writes U.S. News.
“Once accusations are made, survivors at times continue to face harassment and victim-blaming among their peers, which some victims say is even worse than the assault itself.”
Administrators across the country are failing to do their jobs. Sexual assault cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute, but that isn’t the concern of high school. School officials who learn that a student was raped should immediately alert authorities.
“The problem in general seems to be that schools aren’t taking appropriate action once they have knowledge of a possible sexual assault,” Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, said.
School should be a haven for students. Kids who don’t feel safe won’t be able to learn. An administrator who attempts to silence a rape victim is betraying the trust imposed in him.
According to Aljazeera: “In total, 53 percent of high school girls are sexual assaulted by a peer… and 39 percent of sexual assaults took place at school. That’s specifically unwanted sexual contact, as opposed to the unwanted sexual comments and rumor spreading, which falls under the umbrella of sexual harassment.”