A lawsuit against Miami-Dade County Public Schools that alleges coercion and coverup of sexual assault against a minor has been settled.
The settlement, whose terms were not released, comes after attorneys filed a complaint their client, Jane Doe, reported sexual harassment and multiple sexual assaults to
the school system, which not only failed to respond to her complaints but also suspended her from school as a result of her complaints.
Her attorneys, the National Women’s Law Center, Stroock & Strook & Lavan and Allison Hertog and Alice K. Nelson also allege that the school district failed to train its employees on how to respond to student-on-student sexual misconduct.
The case, which was originally filed in January, named the school district and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho as defendants. It was settled during the week of Nov. 19.
Jane Doe was 14 years old when she was sexually assaulted three times and verbally harassed from Oct. 24, 2017 to Nov. 6, 2017 by older boys in the bathrooms over a two-week period at Carol City High School, which is located in Miami Gardens.
When Jane and her friends reported the harassment and assaults to “Carol City’s Principal, Vice Principal, Assistant Principals (‘School Officials’), a school resource officer, at least two teachers, and at least two counselors, on November 7, 2017, instead of coming to her aid,” school officials engaged in a cover-up, attorneys allege. The school coerced Jane into recanting her written statement and suspended her for so-called “sexual misconduct.”
Jane started missing school due to “trauma from the assaults and fear of her perpetrators.” More than three months passed and “school officials ignored these absences and failed to provide her with any academic instruction or referral for counseling, also in violation of the law,” attorneys allege.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleges that the defendants violated Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, the U.S. Constitution, state laws, and school board policies when they failed to respond to Jane’s reports.
Elizabeth Tang, an attorney with the National Women’s Law Center, said Jane Doe “is proud to have brought this case and is glad that, as a result of this settlement, the National Women’s Law Center and her school district are working to ensure her equal access to educational opportunities and to provide additional resources for her school district’s training for employees and students on Title IX and sexual harassment.”
Tang said schools are required to address all reports of sexual harassment, which includes sexual assault … regardless of where the harassment occurred and regardless of whether there is a parallel criminal investigation. “These obligations apply to all sexual harassment that is reported to a “responsible employee”—i.e., any employee who a student could reasonably believe has (i) the authority to take corrective action or (ii) the duty to report it to the Title IX coordinator. If a responsible employee knows about possible sexual harassment of a student, the school is required to take prompt and effective action to end the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and remedy its effects,” Tang wrote in an email to The Miami Times.
Tang points out that students and well as employees need to understand how to identify and report sexual assault.
“Schools should train school employees, students, and families on how to recognize and respond to sexual harassment, including how and to whom to report sexual harassment, how to use the school’s harassment complaint procedure, and what students’ rights and schools’ obligations are under Title IX, state laws, and school district policies,” she said. “In addition, schools can help prevent sexual harassment by providing students with sex education that is comprehensive, medically accurate, LGBTQ-inclusive, and centered on consent.”
A spokeswoman for Miami-Dade County Public Schools – the fourth-largest school district in the country – declined to comment, due to the terms of the settlement.