Today, NWLC, with the Michigan law firm Smietanka, Buckleitner, Steffes and Gezon, filed a Title IX lawsuit in federal court against the Forest Hills School District outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan. We represent a high school student—we call her Jane Doe to protect her privacy—who was sexually assaulted on campus by a fellow student and star basketball player.
Jane was brave enough to tell a teacher what happened, and that teacher told the school principal. But when the principal met with Jane and her parents he discouraged her from filing a police report and implied that she’d jeopardize her assailant’s changes of getting recruited by Division 1 schools (!!!).
Jane reported her assault to the police anyway, and they opened an investigation. Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex-based harassment, including sexual assault, in federally-funded education programs, requires schools to investigate and respond to allegations of sexual assault.
Jane’s school failed her. It didn’t take reasonable steps to investigate and respond to Jane’s allegations. For example, the principal interviewed the assailant, but neglected to take notes, and even allowed Jane’s assailant to remain in the same class as her for weeks after the assault. The school’s lack of response led other students to assume that Jane was lying about what happened, and they started to harass her.
Jane reported this harassment to her school, but it didn’t take any action to protect her even AFTER prosecutors brought criminal charges against the assailant. All the school did was bench him from a few basketball games. As a result, Jane’s grades suffered, she quit the soccer team and cheerleading squad, became isolated from her classmates, and ended up transferring to a new school.
We’re filing this complaint to help achieve justice for Jane, and to send a strong message to schools that they need to take their Title IX responsibilities seriously.