ERA Sues Sacramento School District for Civil Rights Violations after Sexual Assault
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 21, 2018
CONTACT: Delia Coleman, firstname.lastname@example.org, 312.961.0033 mobile
Sacramento City Unified School District Sued by Former Student for
Violating Her Civil Rights after Sexual Assault
Former Student Survivor Claims that the District Abandoned its Basic Responsibilities and Ignored Her Pleas for Help.
San Francisco – Civil rights lawyers from Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) and Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP (LVBH) filed suit late Tuesday against the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) for grossly mishandling the case of a young woman who was raped by fellow students in her junior year of high school. Upon learning of the assault, the school escorted the young woman off campus. She was forced to stay out of school and then subjected to harassment and bullying that the school failed to address throughout her senior year.
In her complaint, plaintiff Virginia M. brings claims for sex discrimination, retaliation, disability discrimination, and negligence. She seeks compensatory damages as well as changes to policies, procedures, and protocols to correct the litany of violations and failures by C.K. McClatchy High School and SCUSD staff and agents identified in her lawsuit, which include:
- failing to conduct a proper investigation of the sexual harassment and assault;
- failing to protect her from or stop subsequent harassment and bullying;
- failing to inform (and actively misleading) the plaintiff and her mother about her rights under Title IX and the state Education Code;
- failing to follow or inform her about the procedures to follow and remedies available for peer-on-peer sexual harassment;
- failing to designate and properly train school staff;
- obstructing the plaintiff from pursuing criminal charges;
- and interfering with the plaintiff’s ability to exercise and enjoy her constitutional and statutory rights to equal educational opportunity in a safe, respectful school environment.
“Sacramento City Unified School District violated the law by utterly failing to protect Virginia and address the sexual assault and ongoing harassment she faced,” said ERA’s Legal Director Jennifer Reisch. “School officials effectively robbed Virginia of her education by forcing her to leave school and turning a blind eye to her suffering. The school’s actions and failures to act in this case send a chilling message to all students about what happens when sexual harassment is reported: it gets swept under the rug, perpetrators have nothing to fear, and survivors have no incentive to speak out. This callous approach is illegal and must change.”
“Schools have a duty to protect the students in their care,” says LVBH attorney Katherine Smith. “In this case, the District’s response to a student who was sexually assaulted by other students was to mislead her about her rights and to deny her equal access to education in a safe school environment free of harassment, bullying and retaliation. Leaving the victim to fend for herself and ignoring the subsequent harassment and bullying she faced is not only deeply troubling, it violates California laws designed to protect students from this very behavior.”
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. The school and district say they take student safety very seriously, but they didn’t protect me. I feel like what they did was just as bad as what the boys did to me,” said Virginia M., the plaintiff, who graduated last year. “Nobody took me seriously or did anything to stop the harassment I was facing. ”
Equal Rights Advocates is a national civil rights organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational access and opportunities for women and girls.
Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP is a women-led Bay Area law firm dedicated to representing individuals targeted by harassment, abuse, discrimination or retaliation in workplaces, housing and education.