April 23, 2013

School Principal Discouraged Teen Girl from Reporting Sexual Assault Because It Would Ruin Attacker's Basketball Career

Last week the National Women’s Law Center, along with a local law firm in Michigan filed a complaint in federal district court on behalf a high school student who was sexually assaulted at school by a fellow student and star basketball player. In many ways the story echoes the tragic high school rape story from Steubenville, Ohio,which should lead all of us to ask just what kind of culture are we raising our children in, and what kind of culture is being cultivated at our high schools?
According to the complaint, in 2010 the victim was sexually assaulted by a star player on the school’s basketball team. The assault took place on campus in a sound proof band room at Forest Hills Central High School. The victim notified a teacher who in turn reported the assault to the principal. But rather than open an investigation into the allegations, the principal discouraged the student and her parents from filing charges, telling them that doing so could ruin the assailant’s prospects at being recruited to play basketball for a Division 1 school.
The victim and her parents ignored the principal’s request not to file charges because they were concerned that this student might attack other girls. Instead, the student and her parents filed a police report, and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department began a criminal investigation. Meanwhile, the school did nothing.
As alleged in the complaint, two weeks later another female student was sexually assaulted by the same attacker. Despite a legal obligation under Title IX to investigate the assault and protect the student, the high school officials never interviewed the girl or her parents again, failed to conduct an investigation, and for two and a half weeks left the attacker in one of her classes.
It gets worse. As word of the sexual assault spread among the student body, the female victim became the target of an intensive cyber-bullying and harassment campaign—both at school and online—that depicted her as a liar and a “whore” who was trying to bring down an innocent athlete. These cyber-attacks were only reinforced by the fact that the school continued to take no action to reprimand the male student. Not only did fellow students harass the victim, the attacker and his friends verbally and physically harassed the girl as well. They followed her around as she moved in and out of classrooms, through hallways, and around the school campus. The attacker sometimes pushed her into other students as she walked down the hallway, causing her to slam into lockers.  Despite repeated efforts by the victim’s parents and other students to alert the principal and the school’s Title IX Coordinator about the viciousness of the harassment by the attacker and other students, school administrators took no action.
Thankfully law enforcement did. Five weeks after the sexual assault, the Kent County Prosecutor’s office authorized two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct against the attacker for his assaults on NWLC’s client and the second female victim at the school. The attacker later pled guilty to a single count of misdemeanor assault and battery. He was sentenced to attend Kent County’s Adolescent Sexual Offender Treatment Program for a second time. The only sanction the school imposed upon the student assailant was to temporarily bench him on the basketball court.
“Title IX requires schools to ensure that the educational environment is free from sex-based discrimination,” said NWLC Vice-President of Education and Employment Fatima Goss Graves said in a statement.
“This school completely ignored its legal responsibility to address student-on-student sexual harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to protect the victim. The school’s failure to address the harassment sends a chilling message to students that they should remain silent in the face of sexual assault and cannot count on their school to provide a safe learning environment.”
Because of the school district’s inaction, the victim’s grades suffered, she quit the soccer team and cheerleading squad, became isolated from her classmates, and ended up transferring to a new school. And while the lawsuit may vindicate her rights, it does little to undo the message the school district sent to other students, which is that if a student dares to speak out against sexual violence they will be ridiculed and left unprotected. Students not only deserve to feel safe in their school environments, according to Title IX they have a right to be safe in them as well. Unfortunately for students at Forest Hills Central High School, their administration doesn’t seem to understand that duty trumps potential college athletic recruitment.


  1. This happened in my school to me and other girls back in the 80s. We were aggressively sexually harrassed and molested by school football players while teachers watched and did nothing. Plus, we were white and players were black so when we tried to say something we were accused of racism. Not much has changed in 30 years. I just thank god no one had smartphones back then

  2. Love it how their wiki page had information about the rape case, but was removed recently.

  3. That's disrespectful and fucked up. They intentionally ruined her life by allowing such actions and better be held accountable for such a disrespectful and criminal act against those students. I hope the victims recover from their wounds and live healthy relationships in the future; while learning to defend themselves and read the symbolism of such acts before they happen and then teach others.

  4. Everyone always find it easier to attack victims than instigators. It's not even rape cases, it happens with everything. People just suck.

  5. Wow, he was "sentenced to attend Kent County's Adolescent Sexual Offender Treatment Program for a second time." No results the first time around so let's repeat it. Article focuses on the school's gross negligence in addressing the issue (aren't schools required by law to report these incidents to police?), but the court didn't do any better. This kid's sexual-predator behavior was positively reinforced 4 times, twice by each institution; what he's come away learning is that there is no consequence for sexual assault. Girls, if you're not opting to change schools, I'd begin mastering a few effective self-defense maneuvers immediately.

  6. If this was MY daugther/family I would give the f.... one chance, just one, and if that f.... dont agree in unconditional apology and stay the hell away from her/him, I wouldl just wack one of his knee caps.


    And if that isnt sufficient, I wack one albow cap.
    I can garantee that this helps.
    No mercy, since the person gives no mercy, is just natural to equalize the pain.


    1. And then I would go after the Basketball player

  7. These school "officials" should be in prison WITH the BOY who did the assaults. They could all get cozy in the cell.

  8. The school does what is mirrored in society. They know they can use propaganda to switch the blame, to show who they support and the sheep will follow.

    Sometimes the masses are dead wrong. This is a microcosm as proof.

  9. Utterly disgusting!!! That principal should be fired for even suggesting she shouldn't say anything, nevermind the fact they didn't do anything like call authorities, stop the bullying/harrasment.