(CN) – An Illinois high school student in the Junior ROTC program was unable to prove that school officials and the program’s supervisor knew that her instructor had molested other girls and failed to stop him from sexually abusing her.
The 7th Circuit in Chicago acknowledged that the instructor’s behavior was “appalling,” but said there was no evidence that Pekin High School District knew about the abuse and ignored it.
The victim, then a junior at Pekin High School in central Illinois, claimed Sgt. Mark Cole put his hand between her legs while driving her back from drill practice and put his hand insider her pants when she asleep under a tree during a nighttime drill.
Confronted with the allegations, Cole told school administrators that he’d “fucked up.” He later pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse and official misconduct, and was convicted and sentenced for his crimes.
Cole’s supervisor, Major Lee Redmon, told the victim’s stepfather that he knew nothing about the incident, but added, “Well, this has happened before, and it just in time goes away.”
The victim’s parents thought the statement referred to Redmon’s knowledge of Cole’s sexual abuse of other female students, including two girls who came forward after the local paper ran an article about Cole’s arrest.
Redmon insisted his comment referred to inappropriate contact between a female Junior ROTC student and his predecessor, the previous program supervisor.
Circuit Judge Diane Sykes noted that the victim’s claims against the school district and Redmon “turn on whether Redmon knew about Cole’s sexual abuse” of other students.
“Her entire argument on this critical point rests on the statement Redmon made … that ‘this incident has happened before, and it just in time goes away,'” Sykes wrote.
The victim’s claim that “this incident” meant that Redmon knew about the prior abuse “is little more than an invitation to speculation,” Sykes said. “There is no evidence to support this interpretation” (original emphasis).
The three-judge panel upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of the victim’s Title IX and civil rights claims.