In September 2014, a female student at Thornton Fractional North High School near Chicago was sexually assaulted in the boys’ locker room. Although the principal and his supervisors learned of the assault, the girl and the alleged perpetrator were kept in the same class and went on the same field trips. The school didn’t think it was a problem because another assault was never reported. They finally expelled the boy when he threatened to shoot her in the head weeks later.
A lengthy article by Tyler Kingkade at the Huffington Post explores this case and many, many others like it: One special needs girl, who has the mental capacity of a 12-year-old, according to her mother, was raped outside a school dance; the police couldn’t locate the perpetrator, and the school never tried to. Another girl was expelled after she reported that a boy had forced her to perform oral sex for engaging in “sexual misconduct” and impeding a school investigation—the boy, who claimed it was consensual and showed a short video of the sex act, was suspended and eventually allowed to graduate.
The piece demonstrates the startlingly widespread negligence on the part of high schools across the country when it comes to protecting its female students from rape and sexual assault. Largely, Kingkade writes, because the schools can’t even be bothered to look into the reports.
“Some schools explain this by stating they won’t take any action against an accused perpetrator unless police tell them a crime was committed, though experts say this runs counter to federal law under Title IX,” Kingkade writes.
He notes that though Title IX is an old and untouched law, it should protect against this negligence:
Title IX is over 40 years old and hasn’t changed. The Supreme Court affirmed in a landmark 1999 case that schools must address student-on-student harassment under the law, with sexual assault considered the most egregious form of harassment. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights issued guidance in 2010 and 2014 further stating what schools should do in cases of student-on-student sexual harassment or assault.
At a minimum, the school should ensure an alleged victim and their accused assailant do not come in contact with each other, and any ongoing bullying related to an allegation of assault should be stopped too. Schools can also conduct their own investigations and discipline a student as it deems necessary, which may include suspending or expelling them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42.2 percent of female rape victims are first raped before age 18, and 29.9 percent of female rape victims are first raped between ages 11-17—an upsetting statistic meaning that high schools hold an increased burden of protecting their students. Yet too often, they leave investigations to law enforcement, which is meant to serve an entirely different purpose.
Read the full article here.