Lawsuit: Teton County School District Officials Retaliated Against Student for Reporting Rape
A federal lawsuit alleges that Teton County School District administrators ignored harassment and eventually retaliated against a student who reported being raped by a classmate while a student at Jackson Hole High School.
The suit, brought by the victim — identified as Jane Doe — and her mother, claims that school district officials disregarded the girl's reports and "acted with deliberate indifference to the assault and sexual harassment."
"Specifically, TCSD failed to remedy the hostile educational environment, punished Plaintiff, and ultimately removed Plaintiff from their schools, all in violation of TCSD's Title IX obligations," the claim reads.
Teton County School District Spokesperson Charlotte Reynolds said the school district does not comment on pending litigation.
Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 requires schools to adopt and publish grievance procedures for students who are victims of sexual assault. It also gives school staff and administrators guidelines for investigating such claims as required by federal law.
According to the suit, the girl was "forcibly held down" and raped by a peer student during the summer of 2017. Following the alleged assault, the assailant sent Snapchat messages to the girl expressing regret for his actions.
The complaint does not specify where the alleged assault occurred.
The girl's personality changed following the alleged rape and she was afraid to tell anyone what happened and instead held her feelings inside and hoped everything would go away, the lawsuit states.
"Her family noticed a difference in behavior, but the cause for the changes was a mystery to them," the complaint states.
When they returned to school, the girl was forced to share the hallways and classrooms of Jackson Hole High School with her alleged assailant, which caused her to suffer panic attacks and "face daily reminders of fear, pain, shame, secrecy and anger," the complaint states.
Further, the lawsuit claims, the alleged assailant was very "large and strong" for his age. He was a popular student, accomplished debater and speaker and participated in a number of extracurricular activities.
The lawsuit states that as the 2017-2018 school year went on, Jane Doe's depression and panic attacks worsened in both frequency and severity. She had suicidal thoughts and hurt herself.
That fall, the girl's mother notified Jackson Hole High School Counselor Emily Hoffer that the girl was being sexually harassed by another student. That harassment was "bold, severe and unchecked," the lawsuit states.
In January 2019, the girl's parents placed her in a youth inpatient crisis facility due to "depressive type behavior, acting out and self-harm actions."
According to the lawsuit, the girl's therapist encouraged her to report the alleged sexual assault to school officials. On January 17, 2019, the girl and her therapist met with Hoffer to report the alleged assault.
At no point did Hoffer or other school administrators inform the girl that she had certain rights under Title IX, according to the lawsuit.
On February 13, 2019, a Jackson police officer spoke with the alleged assailant regarding the alleged incident.
The complaint states that the officer never told the boy his accuser's identity. However, he "immediately began describing to the officer his relationship and sexual interactions with Plaintiff" and that "Plaintiff made up the assault and accusation because [the boy] lost interest in the relationship and would not give Plaintiff attention."
The investigation was forwarded to the Teton County Attorney's Office. It's unclear if charges were ever filed. A call there was not immediately returned.
When the alleged assailant and his friend learned that the girl reported the alleged sexual assault to school administrators and law enforcement, "[the alleged assailant] and his friends began to sexually harass Plaintiff by taunting her and spreading sexualized rumors about her."
The federal complaint claims the alleged assailant reported that a friend texted him and said Jane Doe was at his house attempting to break a window. The report was investigated by the Teton County Sheriff's Office and no one involved in the report actually saw the girl at the alleged assailant's residence or knew her whereabouts, according to the complaint.
"In fact, Plaintiff was never at [the alleged assailant]'s residence and was instead in another town," the complaint states.
On May 2, 2019, the girl's mother contacted school administrators because she wanted to know more about her daughter's rights under Title IX.
The next day, the girl's mother met with administrators and inquired about who had been assigned to investigate her daughters reported sexual assault and ongoing harassment. The lawsuit claims that school administrators told the girl's mother they were unfamiliar with Title IX or how it applied to the situation at hand.
"[Jackson Hole High School Principal Scott] Crisp was aloof during the meeting and show no interest or concern that Plaintiff had been sexually assaulted by another JHHS student," the complaint states. "Up to this point, Plaintiff and Mrs. Doe trusted that TCSD was trying to help Plaintiff."
Further, the complaint states, administrators allegedly suggested to the girl's mother that the girl was the problem, not the alleged assailant or his friends.
On May 15, 2019, the complaint alleges that the girl and her mother met with Jackson Hole High School Assistant Principal Daniel Abraham for the stated purpose of discussing the girl's academic needs.
Instead, Abraham began "subtly and impliedly blaming Plaintiff for causing problems by reporting that the alleged assailant had assaulted her," before presenting the girl with a no contact order that she was to sign before being permitted to return to school. Abraham also reportedly restricted the girl's access to certain portions of the school.
Abraham allegedly told the girl and her mother that the alleged assailant was not forced to sign a no contact order. When pressed, Abraham said he would have the boy sign another order, but he never definitively said whether that happened.
According to the complaint, the girl tried returning the school but was promptly met with harassment by the alleged assailant and his friends. The girl's mother reportedly emailed Abraham to report the incident, who simply replied that he was aware of the situation. The school year ended, and the girl and her family hoped for a new beginning the next school year.
The alleged assailant was no longer enrolled at Jackson Hole High School at the start of the 2019-2020 school year. However, according to his complaint, his friends and their parents reported that the girl had threatened violence.
The most extreme allegations include an anonymous caller reporting to authorities that the girl was threatening other students and that she was another mass school shooting "waiting to happen."
But the school resource officer's report concluded that the report was unsubstantiated, the complaint states.
"Nevertheless, Abraham determined that Plaintiff was the problem," the lawsuit states.
On September 19, Assistant Teton County Superintendent Jeff Daughtery showed up at the girl's home in Alpine to perform a residency check, the lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, the girl and her parents had previously maintained a residence in Jackson. When they moved to Alpine, the girl continued attending classes in Jackson, which is not uncommon.
The complaint states that when the girl's mother questioned Daughtery about the visit, she learned that "the so-called random residency check was not random at all. Specifically, Mr. Daughtery informed Mrs. Doe that he had not performed a residency check on all the other families of TCSD students similarly situated as the Plaintiff's family."
When Daughtery learned the girl's address on file was outdated, he informed her parents by letter that her and her bother were to be removed from Teton County schools unless proof of residency could be provided.
"By this act, Plaintiff was again being singled out and harassed by reporting that she was raped by a fellow student," the complaint states. "This time the harassment was not student harassment and retaliation enabled by TCSD inaction, but harassment and retaliation by official TCSD action under the guise of TCSD policy. TCSD had enough of dealing with Plaintiff and her rights."
On September 30, 2019, the girl and her parents received a letter informing them that she and her sibling had been removed from TCSD's rolls, the complaint states.
Currently, the lawsuit is in the initial filing stages. The school district has not yet filed a response.