USA Intervenes in ‘Rape Bait’ Case

     ATLANTA (CN) – The Departments of Justice and Education claim an Alabama Federal Court wrongfully ruled in favor of a school district whose plan to catch a sexually abusive boy “in the act” caused a mentally disabled girl to be raped in a school bathroom.
     The two Cabinet departments filed an amicus brief at the 11th Circuit, urging reversal in plaintiff/appellant James Hill’s lawsuit against defendant/appellee Madison County School Board.
     Hill is the father of a 14-year-old special ed student whom a teacher at Sparkman Middle School allegedly used to “bait” a predatory boy and catch him “in the act,” the father claimed in his 2010 lawsuit.
     The 16-year-old boy, CJC, was known for sexual misconduct and asked the girl, BHJ, to have sex with him in the boys’ bathroom, according to the government’s amicus brief.
     She told a teacher’s aide, June Ann Simpson, “who suggested that BHJ meet CJC in the bathroom where teachers could be positioned to catch him ‘in the act’ before anything happened. BHJ initially refused, but then acquiesced,” the government says.
     “Simpson and BHJ then went to Vice-Principal [Jeanne] Dunaway’s office, where Simpson told Dunaway about her plan to use BHJ as bait to catch CJC. Dunaway did not respond with any advice or directive. Principal [Ronnie] Blair admitted that, assuming that Dunaway knew about the plan, she should have intervened and notified him,” according to the 42-page amicus brief, with 84 pages of attachments. (Citations to court documents omitted.)
     The brief continues: “BHJ left Dunaway’s office, found CJC in the hallway, and agreed to meet him for sex. CJC told BHJ to go to the sixth grade boys’ bathroom and she complied. No teachers were in the bathroom to intervene, and CJC sodomized BHJ.”
     BHJ withdrew from school, stopped extracurricular activities and started seeing a counselor. Her father said the traumatic event has left her “in an almost non-communicative state.”
     In the Sept. 17 amicus brief, the government says the Madison County School Board was at fault.
     “A school board cannot avoid summary judgment as a matter of law when a school administrator willfully ignores a plan to use a 14-year-old special needs student as bait to catch a student with a known history of sexual and violent misconduct, and as a result, the student is sodomized,” according to the brief, by Molly Moran of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
     In its brief, the Justice Department argues that that the district court applied the wrong legal standard in deciding the case, failed to consider the relevant evidence, and erred in granting defendant summary judgment.
     “While the district court correctly found that appropriate school officials knew of CJC’s ‘troublesome’ disciplinary record over the past 14 months, it erred in concluding that CJC’s past sexual misconduct ‘must [have] rise[n] to the level of being so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it acts to deprive students of educational opportunities or benefits’ for the defendant to have ‘actual knowledge’ of his risk to other students …”
     “… The Standard does not require a plaintiff to have been previously attacked or show the specific nature of, or level of harm suffered by past victims, so long as the past harassment involved more than innocuous, inadvertent physical contact … to conclude otherwise, as the district court did here, wrongly suggests that Title IX imposes no obligation on a school to provide protection from a student with a known history of violent and sexual misconduct.”
     The brief continues, “Applying the correct legal standard and considering all relevant evidence, the district court erred in concluding that CJC’s extensive history of sexual and violent misconduct was legally insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether administrators, and thus the school district, had “actual notice.”
     The Justice Department argues that defendant Madison County (Ala.) School Board cannot avoid summary judgment as a matter of law; it also argues that the school district cannot avoid a jury trial when school administrators, as is alleged in this case, shred disciplinary files of student accused of the rape and failed to maintain any records of unsubstantiated complaints against him.
     “Regardless whether CJC’s disciplinary records were properly maintained, the district court erred in granting summary judgment because a jury could easily conclude that the school acted with deliberate indifference when, despite two sexual misconduct complaints against CJC days before he sodomized BHJ, it provided him unsupervised access to students and failed to protect BHJ. Accordingly, both the facts and law compel reversal,” the brief says.

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