‘It’s Like the Wild West’: Sexual Assault Victims Struggle in K-12 Schools

During a disciplinary hearing, the girl was cross-examined by the accused student’s lawyer, who had to be told to “tone it down.” A lawyer for the school district also questioned the girl, concluding that he believed the encounter was consensual because she “did not scream louder and louder as this was going on.” Found to have violated the sexual misconduct policy, the girl was suspended — twice.

A county spokeswoman referred to the district’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, in which it argued the school district did not violate Title IX because it investigated and determined the sex was consensual.

In another case, parents are suing the Washington Public Schools in Oklahoma, where they say their middle-school son had been assaulted three times over 18 months by his male peers, who shoved their fingers in his rectum in a classroom and locker room. Administrators called it “horseplay” but admitted they would have called the police if the same action had been done to a girl. When the parents asked the administrators to take action, the principal, who was also the athletic director, asked, “What do you want me to do — hold his hand?”

County officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Jesse Binnall, a lawyer representing an accused student in a Title IX lawsuit against Fairfax County Schools in Virginia, said that there are even fewer due process protections at the K-12 level than in college, but school disciplinary decisions are more consequential for younger students.

“This isn’t something you learn from and move on; this is almost worse than a felony conviction,” he said. “If you’re going to put something on somebody’s record, something that’s going to haunt them for the rest of their lives, you’d better be sure.”

In Mr. Binnall’s suit, an 18-year-old male student says the school district violated his rights when he was suspended after a girl accused him of hitting her buttocks. The suit said the student had little notice to prepare a defense in a disciplinary hearing and was not able to question the accuser or the witnesses. The suit also contends that school officials ignored key evidence, and even though video evidence exonerated him and a witness recanted, they did not waive their decision.

Officials in Fairfax County Schools, which is facing at least one other Title IX lawsuit, declined to comment on pending litigation. In 2014, the district settled an investigation with the Office for Civil Rights, which required it to improve its Title IX process. A spokesman said the district was complying with its federal agreement and federal laws and was “committed to continually improving our practices related to preventing and responding to sex discrimination within our schools.”


more recommended stories

  • Trump’s Ringside Evening in the Sumo Arena

    TOKYO — As the leader of.

  • How Democrats Are, and Aren’t, Challenging the Trump Economic Record

    NASHUA, N.H. — Ask Democratic candidates.

  • The Insults Trump Has Hurled at 2020 Democrats

    Joseph R. Biden Jr. is “sleepy,”.

  • Trump Opens Tokyo Visit With a Tweet Sure to Unnerve the Japanese

    TOKYO — President Trump kicked off.

  • Bernie Sanders, No Longer the Front-Runner, Brings Campaign Home to Vermont

    MONTPELIER, Vt. — Senator Bernie Sanders.

  • Fact-Checking Bernie Sanders on the Campaign Trail

    “Absolutely. In fact, climate change is.

  • A Lesson of Sandy Hook: ‘Err on the Side of the Victims’

    NEWTOWN, Conn. — Scarlett Lewis sees.

  • Iran Slams U.S. After Middle East Troop Buildup Is Announced

    LONDON — Iranian officials lashed out.

  • John Bolton Says North Korean Missile Tests Violated U.N. Resolutions

    TOKYO — North Korean weapons tests.

  • On Politics: The Biggest Stories of the Week

    • China’s Supply of Minerals for.

  • Supreme Court Blocks Two Rulings Striking Down Voting Maps

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on.

  • Barr Got More Power to Review the Russia Inquiry. Here’s What We Know About Its Origins.

    WASHINGTON — President Trump has given.

  • Edited Pelosi Video vs. the Original: A Side-by-Side Comparison – Video

    Channels & Shows Home Search U.S..

  • Jay Inslee Is Running on Climate Change. The Issue Is Catching On, So Why Isn’t He?

    RAYMOND, N.H. — For years, climate.

  • News Quiz: Test Your Knowledge of the Week’s Headlines

    Did you stay up to date.

  • On Politics: The Trade War Is Here to Stay

    Good Friday morning. Here are some.

  • Hope Hicks Left the White House. Now She Must Decide Whether to Talk to Congress.

    A White House spokesman did not.

  • 2020 Democrats Join McDonald’s Workers Striking Over Wages and Harassment

    As McDonald’s held its annual shareholder.

  • Sanders’s Education Plan Renews Debate Over Charter Schools and Segregation

    When Senator Bernie Sanders delivered a.

  • Trump Administration to Announce Farm Aid to Ease Pain of Trade War

    He reached out to Canadian and.

  • Pentagon to Build Temporary Shelter for 7,500 Migrant Adults Facing Deportation

    WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said on.

  • On Politics: Trump Blows Up Meeting With Democrats

    • New York State lawmakers approved.

  • U.S. Yet to Find Evidence of New Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria

    WASHINGTON — The United States has.

  • Michael Avenatti Is Charged With Stealing Nearly $300,000 From Stormy Daniels

    Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged the.

  • Trump’s Battles: Today’s State of Play

    congress and the presidency As Democrats.

  • Gillibrand Proposes Huge Investments in Maternal Health, Child Care and Education

    Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaign on.

  • On Politics: Trump May Impose Limits on Chinese Maker of Surveillance Tech

    Good Wednesday morning. Here are some.

  • Anita Hill Worries Female 2020 Candidates Are ‘Not Being Taken Seriously’

    Mr. Biden spoke with Ms. Hill.

  • U.S. Says Syria’s President May Be Using Chemical Weapons Again

    WASHINGTON — The State Department said.

  • Kentucky Has a Primary Election Today. Here’s What to Watch.

    Voters in Kentucky are choosing their.

  • ‘Our Subpoenas Are Not Optional,’ Nadler Warns McGahn – Video

    By REUTERS | May. 21, 2019.

  • As McGahn Prepares to Defy Subpoena, Democrats’ Anger Swells

    WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee.