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School Isn’t Liable For Girl’s Alleged Coercion

DENVER (CN) - The 10th Circuit has cleared a school district of liability over a mother's claim that the district failed to prevent middle school boys from blackmailing her special-needs daughter into performing oral sex.

When the plaintiff's daughter was in the seventh grade, a group of boys at Steamboat Springs Middle School began to coerce her into performing various sexual acts. The guys allegedly called her "retard," and threatened to spread rumors about her sexual activity and circulate naked pictures of her.

The incidents occurred off school grounds, according to the police report, and a few of the encounters appeared to have been consensual.

When the alleged abuse came to light, the girl's mother accused Steamboat Springs Re-2 School District of "acquiescing to student-on-student sexual harassment" and creating a dangerous educational environment. She also claimed school officials reacted with deliberate indifference to reports of sexual harassment.

The court ruled that the plaintiff might have a case for negligence, but not for deliberate misconduct.

Judge McConnell dissented in part, arguing that while the school did not have actual knowledge that the girl was being sexually harassed, it should have been able to stop the incessant teasing that led her to withdraw from school. See ruling.

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