High school is supposed to be a place where teens are supported by their school. But one 19-year-old woman is suing her former school district after administrators allegedly jeopardized her well-being after her sexual assault.
In a federal lawsuit filed on Friday, the 19-year-old anonymously identified as Jane Roe alleges that she was sexually assaulted at a friend’s sleepover in November 2013. After smoking marijuana with her friend’s brother and his friend, the lawsuit claims, the two men allegedly tricked Roe into smoking too much and proceeded to rape her after she felt incapacitated.
Roe and her family attempted to seek out help from the Newburyport school district, but according to the lawsuit, the school failed to carry out necessary plans to protect Roe from encountering her alleged rapists. Administrators reportedly failed to properly stagger Roe’s schedule to prevent her from seeing the perpetrators, did not inform Roe of her Title IX rights, and failed to give her a space to recuperate from stress induced by the incident.
As a result, Roe repeatedly saw her rapists in the hallway, in the school’s cafeteria, and in other common areas across campus, the lawsuit claims. Her friend’s brother would commonly stare at her and stand close by when the two were in contact with one another, the lawsuit claims, an encounter that otherwise could have been avoided if the school enforced measures to protect Roe.
The lawsuit argues that the school’s negligence violates Title IX’s expanded guidelines. In a 2011 Dear Colleague Letter from the Obama administration, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights required high schools to investigate student sexual assaults, prevent retaliation, and minimize contact, BuzzFeed News reports. If it failed to properly protect Roe from her alleged rapists, the school district would have violated the Title IX requirements.
Ultimately, Roe’s physical health began to deteriorate as the school district allegedly continued to mishandle her situation. She eventually left her school district and transferred to a private school two hours away in Boston.
“I had a part of my life taken away from me,” Roe told BuzzFeed News. “They were supposed to facilitate me being a high schooler, me getting to go to a normal prom, or out to dances. As a 15-year-old I was supposed to have stupid teenage drama but I never got that. It’s just sad.”
Four years later, Roe claims she filed the lawsuit because she wants to protect other young girls from going through her same situation.
“I did everything I was supposed to do,” Roe said to BuzzFeed News. “I spent my whole life believing that these institutions were supposed to help me… It was such a betrayal.”
Roe’s attorney, Alex Zalkin, has since argued that the school showed a “lack of compassion” and “complete indifference” to Roe, violating Title IX.
“This case is a perfect example of how not to respond to a student who has reported that she has been violently sexually assaulted by two fellow students,” Zalkin said according to BuzzFeed News.
H/T BuzzFeed News