WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (CN) – A girl claims in Federal Court that her school district and high school principal protected two star athletes who sexually assaulted her, defended them at every turn even after they had been found guilty, and violated a court order protecting her.
C.S. sued the Southern Columbia Area School District and Southern Columbia Area High School principal James A. Becker.
The Southern Columbia Tigers are a football powerhouse, with four consecutive titles in District IV, according to the complaint. The girl claims her assailant K.D. was “the football team’s star wide receiver,” and also a defensive star. She claims that K.D. and her other attacker, A.Z., were also basketball stars on a team that was runner-up in the District IV tournament and went to the stare tourney.
C.S. says the two boys, who are not named as defendants, sexually assaulted her in July 2009.
“On Dec. 10, 2009, A.Z. was adjudicated delinquent and dependent on the charge of indecent assault (misdemeanor-1), even though school district employees testified in support of him during the criminal hearing,” the complaint states.
It continues: “On Jan. 29, 2010, K.D. was adjudicated delinquent and dependent on the charges of aggravated indecent assault (folony-2), sexual assault (felony-2) and indecent assault (misdemeanor-2), even though school district employees testified in support of him during the criminal hearing.
“Despite these adjudications, the school district did not take any action to discipline the perpetrators, or prevent them from having contact with or harassing C.S., or otherwise restrict their ability to attend or participate in extracurricular activities, and they were both allowed to play on the boys’ basketball team that winter. The boys’ permission to participate on the basketball team resulted in the constructive deprivation of C.S. to participate on the basketball team’s cheerleading squad, as C.S. could not reasonably be expected to cheer for, and rally behind, two students who had recently sexually assaulted her.”
C.S. claims that the defendants asserted a “legally flawed position that no action could be taken absent a court order since the assault did not take place on school grounds. The School District took this position although it had a Title IX coordinator, its employees and agents had received Title IX training, and it specifically learned at this Title IX training that it could take action against student athletes who had committed a crime off school grounds.”
She claims that “the school district has adopted and enforced a disciplinary system designed to protect and maintain athletic eligibility for its male athletes regardless of their criminal behavior and/or propensity for violence against female students.” Shortly before she was assaulted, she says, “a star athlete on the high school football team physically assaulted a female student by shoving her into a locker.” But C.S. says, “The athlete was not meaningfully punished as a result of this assault, and he was able to continue to participate on the football team.” She says this treatment is “common practice at the high school.”
In her own case, C.S. says, she “was sexually assaulted by K.D. and A.Z.”
The complaint states: “In summary, C.S. was lured to A.Z.’s bedroom, where K.D. was hiding in a closet. To C.S.’s surprise K.D. came out of the closet, and C.S. was held down on a bed against her wishes and sexually assaulted.
“Criminal charges were brought against both of the perpetrators shortly after the assault.”
Her parents told principal Becker “of the criminal acts committed by the perpetrators” and asked, “among other things, that the perpetrators be removed from the school, not placed in classes with C.S., and prevented from having contact with C.S.,” according to the complaint.
The complaint continues: “Officials for the school district, including principal Becker, informed C.S. and her parents that they would take no action against the perpetrators and that the school could do nothing to separate C.S. from the perpetrators without a court order since the assault did not take place on school grounds. …
“During this meeting, when C.S. specifically raised concerns of being scheduled in the same ‘honors’ English class as the perpetrators, the school district refused to offer any reasonable accommodation to her. In fact, C.S. was advised that if she did not wish to be in the same ‘honors’ English class as the perpetrators, her alternative was to remove herself from the ‘honors’ class and schedule herself in the ‘general’ class since there was only one section of ‘honors’ English.”
After this fruitless meeting, the girl says “timely obtained a No Contact Order from Judge Wiest of the Court of Common Pleas of Northumberland County … ordering ‘the [perpetrators] may have no verbal or physical direct contact with [C.S.] nor may said child be on or in close adjacent proximity to the residence or business property of [C.S.].’ The order also provided that the ‘[School District] shall take appropriate steps to ensure that [the Perpetrators] and the victim will not be subject to contact via placement in the same homeroom, classroom, and bus.'” (Brackets in complaint.)
Despite that court order, C.S. says, her attackers shared her classrooms for the first month of the school year and were allowed to remain in her lunch period, where they sat a few feet away at her lunch table.
To top it off, the complaint states: “Although the School District never offered to create a new ‘honors’ English class to accommodate C.S., who was told she could drop to ‘general’ English if she wanted to be in an English class without the Perpetrators, the School District later decided to create an additional ‘honors’ English period to accommodate the perpetrators once the school district’s hands were tied by the No Contact Order. To this end, the school district was willing to deprive C.S. of the opportunity to enroll in an advanced class, but was not willing to deprive its star male athletes of the same opportunity.”
C.S. says the school district, and Becker, ignored her repeated complaints of “rude comments and threats from friends of the perpetrators, specifically instructing her that she better not do anything that could inhibit the perpetrators’ ability to participate in athletics.”
“The school district’s blind eye forced C.S. to go back to court on her own and … she ultimately was granted an Amended No Contact Order,” keeping her attackers away from her before and between classes, she says.
“Although the school district refused to intervene in this or any other legal matter that might benefit C.S., the school district and its employees did not hesitate to show up to the courthouse whenever they could be of assistance to the perpetrators,” the complaint states. “In fact, the school’s advocacy efforts on behalf of the perpetrators began in the fall of 2009 when the school’s athletic trainer appeared in court on behalf of K.D., to support his effort to have his ankle monitor removed so he would not be inhibited during football games.”
She claims her two attackers repeatedly violated the No Contact Order, and their friends harassed her too.
“The school district’s blind support for the perpetrators and deliberate indifference towards C.S. continued into the summer of 2010 when employees from the school district, including principal Becker, came to K.D.’s disposition hearing to offer testimony in his support,” the complaint states. “This action came despite the fact that no school district employee had appeared to support C.S. in any of her legal proceedings. To the contrary, the wife of the head football coach, who just so happened to be C.S.’s cheerleading coach, previously appeared in court and offered testimony adverse to C.S.’s character.”
The complaint continues: “On the first day of the [following] 2010-2011 school year, C.S. found A.Z. in her study hall, even though there had been multiple discussions with school officials regarding C.S.’s schedule. By this time the entire school knew that A.Z. was not to be in any of C.S.’s classes. The school administrator responsible for class scheduling was the assistant football coach and track coach.
“The school district continued to create an environment that made it clear to all that it would favor and protect the perpetrators at every turn to the detriment of C.S.’s education. The final straw came on Aug. 30, 2010, when the school district solicitor intervened in a legal matter to assist K.D. in amending the No Contact Order so he could gain flexibility for his lunch schedule.
“In light of the nonstop harassing encounters with the perpetrators and classmates, as well as the school district’s unabashed support for the perpetrators, the hostile environment at the high school became unbearable for C.S. and she was forced to withdraw from the high school. She ultimately enrolled in cyber school after the school district refused to support her effort to transfer to a local high school.”
C.S. seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Title IX violations and civil rights violations, plus costs and attorney fees. She is represented by Benjamin Andreozzi of Harrisburg.