Law & Courts

Federal Appeals Court to Hear Case Involving Sexual-Harassment Sting

By Christina A. Samuels — February 13, 2015 1 min read
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A federal court has agreed to hear the appeal of an Alabama woman who says she was sexually assaulted in a botched sting against another student in her school back in 2010.

The student, who was 14 at the time and in special education, was enrolled in the 20,000-student Madison district at the time of the incident. The student said she told a teacher’s aide that a 16-year-old male classmate with a history of sexual harassment had propositioned her several times. The aide asked if the student would meet her classmate—who also had disabilities—in a school bathroom to try to catch him in the act. The female student followed through, but teachers didn’t intervene in time to stop the attack, the student said. Local prosecutors investigated but declined to file charges against the classmate.

The family of the victim, now 19, filed a lawsuit against the district and several employees, but most of it was dismissed in 2013. The judge who heard the case said that the administrators and teachers did not intend to subject the female student to harm. The family appealed that decision, with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice, which argued that the situation was a violation of Title IX for demonstrating deliberate indifference to sexual harassment. The appeal of the dismissal is what will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, and the date for oral arguments has not been set.

I wrote an extensive piece on the case, with links to the decisions and friend-of-the-court briefs, back in September. Students with disabilities are more likely than their typically-developing peers to be sexually abused or harassed, research has shown.

The victim, now 19, gave an interview to CNN. Asking to be identifed as “Jaden,” she said she felt “set up” by teachers.

“I thought they were going to do what they said they were going to do—and be there and stop him—just get him in trouble,” she told the news channel.

The Associated Press reports that the school district argued in a court filing this week that the student should be required to reveal her name because she is no longer a juvenile.

A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.