Suspended After Assault at School, Girl Says

     LANSING, Mich. (CN) — A Michigan school district had security footage of a child’s sexual assault but suspended the girl anyway for “lewd behavior,” she claims in a federal complaint.
     The June 7 complaint against Lansing Public Schools gives a sickening account of how administrators continued to blame the 14-year-old female student when her parents protested the suspension.
     Jane Doe filed the complaint via pseudonym regarding an Oct. 13, 2015, attack at Eastern High School.
     The complaint says Sharon McWilliams, a student services specialist, confirmed that Doe “had not consented to the sexual activity,” but that McWilliams allegedly said Doe “did not have a ‘strong enough no,’ she did not ‘try to get away,’ and she did ‘not fight back.'”
     “What did you expect me to do, hit him?” Doe says she asked.
     “No, you should not have hit him,” McWilliams allegedly responded, “but you could have said to him, ‘is that all you’ve got?'”
     Doe says McWilliams looked to Assistant Principal Glenn Stevens to back her up.
     “Isn’t that right Mr. Stevens, wouldn’t that deflate a guy if you said that to him?” the specialist asked, according to the complaint.
     Lansing Schools declined to comment on the specifics of Doe’s case.
     “The Lansing School District will not engage in public dialogue regarding the recent lawsuit filed alleging Title IX violations,” spokesman Robert Kolt said in an email. “We honor and respect the privacy of all individuals involved in the case, especially that of the plaintiff. The safety of our students is our primary concern and we approach each situation with the care and concern afforded to us as educators.”
     Doe says the attack occurred at 2 p.m. on Oct. 13, when a fellow 14-year-old identified only as John Roe brought Doe to a stairwell and forced her to rub his penis. Roe also tried to force his penis in Doe’s mouth, according to the complaint.
     The next day, the school’s public safety officer Willie Rogers told Doe’s mother that Doe had been an “active participant” in the stairwell sexual encounter, and that she was being suspended for 10 days.
     Doe says Rogers told her that her story didn’t match what he and the assistant principal saw on the security footage.
     “Despite the findings of Officer Rogers and Stevens that Plaintiff was an active participant in a sexual activity, the Lansing Police Department found otherwise, and they also found that the video supported ‘a majority’ of plaintiff’s claims,” the complaint states.
     Doe notes that her attacker, whom the school also suspended and transferred to another school, ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of indecent exposure.
     Returning to school did not make things better for Doe, according to the complaint, which says the girl found herself harassed, teased and bullied for being “boy crazy.”
     Doe was suspended again later that year for an unrelated incident and not allowed to return to Eastern.
     She takes online classes now, according to the complaint, but has lost the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities and has become socially isolated.
     Doe seeks punitive damages for violations of her civil rights and Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in education.
     She is represented by Karen Truskowski with Temperance Legal Group.
     Truskowski said Lansing’s “student code of conduct is unconstitutional.”
     “They didn’t do an independent investigation,” Doe’s attorney, Truskowski, said in an interview. “They did nothing.”
     Doe’s is the second lawsuit Truskowski filed in the past two weeks against Lansing Schools. A May 23 case accuses the district of doing nothing to help a student who has been afraid to return to school after being raped.
     “It’s just baffling,” Truskowski said. “I don’t know why they would not try to fix this.”
     Truskowski said Lansing ignored attempts to settle before she filed suit on behalf of Doe.
     “I hope this epidemic in this district will change,” Truskowski said. “We need to fix this. Schools are not good at protecting girls from bullies.”

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