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Lawsuit: Raped Girl Gets Suspended, Rapists Don’t

A lawsuit has been filed against a school district in Dayton, Ohio alleging that the school suspended a female student after she was raped by two male students, who were only kicked out of the drama club for their actions. Courthouse News Service reports:

After two high school boys raped a girl on campus, the school suspended her for three days, while the boys’ only punishment was to be kicked out of drama club, the girl’s parent claim in Federal Court.

The minor girl, J.G., and her parents sued the two alleged rapists, J.W. and D.W., their parents, the Trotwood-Madison City School District and several school officials, including D.H., a teacher.

“On the afternoon of November 16, 2011, while waiting for drama club to begin, J.G. was sexually assaulted and raped by J.W. and D.W. in a storage closet at Trotwood-Madison High School,” the complaint states.

“After being attacked, J.G. reported the events to D.H. who was overseeing the drama club practice in the auditorium where the attack took place.

“D.H. drove J.G. home and failed to alert her parents that J.G. had been attacked at school.

“D.H. failed to immediately report the attack on J.G. to the public children’s services agency or the police department.”

The family claims that D.H. told only defendant Terry Logan, the school principal. They says that Logan “failed to appropriately discipline J.W. and G.W., removing them from their drama club but allowing them to remain on their sports teams.”

Yet, “J.G. was suspended from school for three days following the attack.”

These are just allegations at this point, with no response from the school district. The case was filed anonymously to protect the identity of the girl, and the identities of the two alleged rapists are given only as initials, since they are minors as well. According to the complaint, the victim reported the assault to the head of the drama club but the school never called the police. The complaint does not discuss why the girl and her parents did not call the police, however, which does raise some questions.

Comments

  1. eric says

    The complaint does not discuss why the girl and her parents did not call the police, however, which does raise some questions.

    That is pretty easily explained; the girl might not have immediately told her parents what happened. Or they were afraid of the shame and victim-blaming that would likely occur. Its a legimitate fear – after all, that’s the way the administration responded. Its perfectly rational for a parent to think that the police might respond the same way the school principal actually did respond. Victims hesitating to bring a crime to the attention of the police is such a common occurrence I don’t think we can really read anything into it.

    Lastly, teachers and school administrators are – in most states – mandated reporters. So the parents might have assumed the authorities were already notified, since the school was (probably) legally required to do that. IMO one possibly very strong part of the family’s suit is that it does not appear that the administration reported somethnig they were legally required to report. Completely aside from the question of who did it or guilt or innocence, if the principal received a report of a suspected rape from a teacher and did not forward it to the police, the school could be in legal trouble.

  2. says

    The complaint does not discuss why the girl and her parents did not call the police, however, which does raise some questions.

    Given what I read about execrable police behaviour on this blog, it doesn’t for me.

    Assuming the complaint itself is the downloadable PDF appended to the article (for the low, low price of $35.00), does it state that the girl & her parents didn’t call the police? No mention either way appears in the article itself.

  3. says

    The missing important details from this one are agonizing. Why was she suspended? Why, as you say, did she or her parents not report it to the police, even though she reported it to school officials? How do a couple of drama students unobtrusively go rape a fellow student in a storage closet before drama club starts?

  4. jba55 says

    While we certainly can’t know what actually happened yet since some important details are missing, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it went down just like the OA said. I myself got suspended in HS for getting beaten up while the people who beat me got nothing. That they were star athletes with a championship game coming up probably had something to do with it. And not for nothing, this happened in Massachusetts, known for it’s commie-liberalness.

  5. baal says

    A couple of my various bullies did get in trouble while others didn’t. The difference was the income/standing of the parents in the community. My sample size is small but it’s darn consistent with others anecdotes.

    @ the original story, yeah, the details may matter somewhat but Eric’s right, mandatory reporting is mandatory.

  6. Ben P says

    Assuming the complaint itself is the downloadable PDF appended to the article (for the low, low price of $35.00), does it state that the girl & her parents didn’t call the police? No mention either way appears in the article itself.

    Welcome to the legal industry and the outrageous pricing of digital information that is a matter of public record for those who care to find it.

    This suit was filed in federal court so it’s available on PACER (which also costs money, but a minimal amount).

    The case is Jane Doe v J.W. et al. 3:12-cv-00386, Southern District of Ohio, Dayton Division.

    The allegations in the complaint are thin and mostly mirror the article. The defendants are J.W., D.W., The school District, D.H. a teacher, three named school officials and several “unknown” John Does who may have played a role.

    The complaint alleges

    Trotwood Madison High School has a drama club managed by a teacher DH. J.G. was a member of the drama club and was there after school.

    J.G. was sexually assaulted and raped by J.W. and D.W. in a storage closet. J.G. reported the events to D.H.

    D.H. Drove J.G. Home but did not report the attack to either J.G.’s parents, or any state agencies, but did report it to school officials the next day.

    School officials removed J.W. and G.W. from the drama club but allowed them to remain on sports teams.

    J.g. has been subjected to harassment, embarassment, bullying and ridicule following the attack and has suffered severe mental and physical bodily distress.

    Nothing is mentioned about what occurred after that.

    The causes of action are (1) Rape against J.W. and D.W., (2) sexual battery against J.W. and D.W.) (3) battery against J.W. and D.W., (4) assault against J.W. and D.W., (5) false imprisonment against J.W. and D.W., (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress against J.W. and D.W., (7) negligent infliction of emotional distress by all defendants (8) negligence against all defendants by failing to use reasonable care to protect Plaintiff, (9) Violation of Title IX, (10) failure to report known child abuse as required by Ohio Law, (11) Loss of companionship of their daughter, (12) statutory liability of parents for assaults by a minor child, (13) violation of due process under 42 USC 1983.

    They plead the jurisdictional minimum to get into federal court, $75,000 dollars, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

    Looking at the complaint, there is probably a lot more that went on here, but that sort of thing just doesn’t usually make it into a complaint.

  7. Ben P says

    And thinkng like a plaintiff’s lawyer.

    (1) Presuming the minor plaintiff is telling the truth, the case against the attackers is easy, but only worth it if the parents have assets. You don’t get insurance coverage for assault.

    (2) the school is the deep pocket here, but they may have a tough liability case against the school. The curious fact is the one CNS picks up, why a suspension for the girl but not for the attackers? If it looks bad enough, the school probably settles the case.

    (3) assault cases like this have very nebulous damages theories. If you get a broken arm in a car accident, it’s pretty easy to figure out what the plaintiffs will ask for. Take their medical bills and triple it, maybe x5 or x7 if they’re in a bad venue. What’s a rape worth? You’ve probably got some medical bills, and you’ve certainly got some counseling etc., but it’s not anything like the bills you see for a serious medical injury. It all depends on how much the jury hates the defendants and how they feel that day, and that’s a scary thing to a lawyer.

  8. brianwestley says

    This story from Nov 21, 2011 appears to say that the police weren’t informed until five days later by the victim, which would mean school officials didn’t follow mandatory reporting laws.

  9. iknklast says

    When my son was attacked at school, the teacher happened to walk up just as he shoved his attacker away. My son got detention, the attacker didn’t. Off the record, the teacher told me she was glad to see my son finally defending himself. They said they had to do something because my son had shoved the other student, but they didn’t want to do more than detention.

    School discipline is like walking a mine field. Schools have to deal with the students, the parents, the media, and the public. I’m not defending their actions; I think they all too often take the easy way out. And if they see that one parent has power in the community (my son’s attacker) and another parent is barely struggling to get by and could never hire a lawyer (me), the easy way out is obvious.

  10. Trebuchet says

    School officials removed J.W. and G.W. from the drama club but allowed them to remain on sports teams.

    That explains a lot all by itself.

  11. says

    @Trebuchet, #10:

    Indeed. I enjoy sport, but right now sport in education is becoming a cancer – in a rather disturbingly literal way. It is growing at the expense of the host institution, diverting resources that are needed elsewhere, and may eventually kill the host institution.

  12. eric says

    Ben P:

    (3) assault cases like this have very nebulous damages theories…

    IANAL but I suspect the parents are more interested in justice than money. They are probably pressing this civil suit because they are dissatisfied with the response from the criminal justice system and the school administration and want to spur some action. So the amount might not matter so much to them; if the suit and its press coverage results in the local DA actually deciding to prosecute the (presumptive) rapists – or school officials being disciplined for not following mandatory reporting laws – then I wouldn’t be surprised if the suit got dropped or was quickly settled for some minimal amount.

  13. Ben P says

    IANAL but I suspect the parents are more interested in justice than money. They are probably pressing this civil suit because they are dissatisfied with the response from the criminal justice system and the school administration and want to spur some action. So the amount might not matter so much to them; if the suit and its press coverage results in the local DA actually deciding to prosecute the (presumptive) rapists – or school officials being disciplined for not following mandatory reporting laws – then I wouldn’t be surprised if the suit got dropped or was quickly settled for some minimal amount.

    This is going to sound cynical and jaded, but civil law is about money. Even if the parents *just* want justice (which I doubt, because money is pretty nice), their lawyers are not working for free. They are either working on a contingency fee, being paid by the hour, or taking the case on the assumption they can get an award of fees if they prevail. Even ACLU lawyers bank on fee awards to support their case work.

    None of the whole stacking of different case theories, or adding a Title IX theory, or even filing in federal court, makes sense if this is just about “justice.”

    And, if, and when, the case goes to trial (I agree this probably gets settled), the Plaintiffs lawyer will say almost exactly this to the jury.

    “We’re here today because this little girl has suffered a horrible injustice at the hands of these two men and the school system who refused to punish them for what they did. No one can take back what happened, that’s impossible, but what the justice system does let us do is ask for an amount of money sufficient to compensate this girl for the wrongs that were done to her. So at the end of this trial we’re going to be asking you to award money to this girl in the amount of $X, (lots of zeros)).”

    My SWAG at a settlement value for a case like this (with experience handling civil cases for sexual assault, but knowing nothing about specific details here). I would not be surprised at all if even a “quick settlement” of a case like this is on the north side of half a million. If the facts are bad? That doubles. The school likely has insurance and most CGL policies have limits of a million or more.

  14. says

    Ben P-

    Yeah, I have a PACER account and grabbed the complaint to see if it contained anything specific. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds.

  15. Ben P says

    RE: Settlement Value

    I’ll qualify that with the assumption that (1) Ohio is typical and that schools are not immune entities, that would make Plaintiffs’ case much harder, and (2) Plaintiffs’ counsel in this case is experienced at bringing these sort of lawsuits and is willing to be aggressive about.

    As primarily a defense lawyer I dislike dealing with hyper-aggressive “rambo” plaintiffs’ lawyers, but I think the evidence I see tells me they routinely get far bigger settlements for marginal cases just by virtue of being aggressive assholes. (but sometimes they lose big, and sometimes they barely break even because they’ve spent so much prosecuting a case).

    If you ever have a serious injury case, you don’t want your buddy whose primary practice is drafting wills to handle that case for you.

  16. chrisdevries says

    I wonder why this is a civil matter…shouldn’t rapists be tried first and foremost in a criminal court? It seems to me that there is plenty of evidence to prosecute these alleged rapists, why are the parents forced to hire lawyers and go the civil route?

  17. says

    “It is growing at the expense of the host institution, diverting resources that are needed elsewhere, and may eventually kill the host institution.”

    You say that as if it might have caused problems for some college program like Miami, Penn State, Florida, Florida State, USC, TCU, Baylor–oh, wait, nevermind.

    Otoh, the school does have a GREAT HS football team (156th in the U.S. or thereabouts, according to ESPN) so I can see where getting that state DII title a couple of years in a row is more important than justice. One of the seniors is committed to Ohio State. If he’s oneathem teen-o-perps, I’m sure that Urban Meyer will straighten his ass out…

    http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/sports_college_uf/2010/03/urban-meyer-uh-passionately-defends-deonte-thompson.html

    http://dubsism.wordpress.com/tag/florida-gators/

    or, maybe not.

  18. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I wonder why this is a civil matter…shouldn’t rapists be tried first and foremost in a criminal court? It seems to me that there is plenty of evidence to prosecute these alleged rapists, why are the parents forced to hire lawyers and go the civil route?

    Because, like Gretchen above, the courts immediately assume the accuser is lying.

  19. eric says

    @18:

    Because, like Gretchen above, the courts immediately assume the accuser is lying.

    You need to qualify that. The courts immediately assume only that slutty slut sluts are lying, whether they are accusers or not. The courts assume that fine young varsity athlete men are telling the truth when they are the accusers. After all, doesn’t double-teaming a student in a closet just scream “consensual” to you?

  20. paul says

    What is the point of using initials? How many guys with the initials “J.W.” and “D.W.” are in the drama club anyway?

  21. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    I did nothing of the sort.

    I apologize if by

    The missing important details from this one are agonizing. Why was she suspended? Why, as you say, did she or her parents not report it to the police, even though she reported it to school officials? How do a couple of drama students unobtrusively go rape a fellow student in a storage closet before drama club starts?

    you did not in fact mean what is nearly always meant when such Questions are Just Asked in the wake of a rape accusation.

  22. says

    Azkyroth, maybe you should take a little more care in your own assumptions about what is “nearly always meant.” This is a weird story. Period. Pointing that out does not remotely amount to blaming the victim.

  23. Ben P says

    you did not in fact mean what is nearly always meant when such Questions are Just Asked in the wake of a rape accusation.

    Again, maybe a defense lawyer speaking, but I find this whole argument to be a little objectionable.

    Rape is a very serious allegation, and questioning whether the allegation is true is something entirely different from “blaming the victim.” The difference is that the later posits that even if a rape/sexual assault occurred, it is the victim’s fault for some reason. Conflating the two is dangerous.

  24. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Again, maybe a defense lawyer speaking, but I find this whole argument to be a little objectionable.

    Rape is a very serious allegation, and questioning whether the allegation is true is something entirely different from “blaming the victim.” The difference is that the later posits that even if a rape/sexual assault occurred, it is the victim’s fault for some reason. Conflating the two is dangerous.

    I don’t care whether you find it objectionable.

    The epidemic nature of reflexive disbelief of rape victims is well documented and I am continuously confronted by the actual people whose lives have been refragmented by it.

    Your concern it noted.

  25. dogmeat says

    The epidemic nature of reflexive disbelief of rape victims is well documented and I am continuously confronted by the actual people whose lives have been refragmented by it.

    Whereas “Guilty until proven Innocent,” the foundation of our entire legal system, has never hurt anyone. It’s not as if the teacher and administrator’s careers are on the line, let’s just fire them, have the two rapists castrated and move on. [/sarcasm]

    As an educator, ie someone who works with kids five days a week for upwards of 10 hours a day, I agree with Gretchen that this case sounds a bit weird. That doesn’t mean I dismiss the victim’s allegations, it means there are some really bizarre aspects of the story that haven’t been explained by the information we have to date.

    1) How the heck were these kids unsupervised for a period long enough for this to occur? Also why did kids have access to a closet without supervision? Both aspects of classroom management 101.

    2) Why was the young woman suspended? We don’t have any information here that I’ve seen so far. A very stupid thing to do if there is any truth to the allegations.

    3) Why did it take an entire year to file suit? Also quite strange.

    4) Why did the teacher drive the student home? I’ve worked for a number of school districts in multiple states, I’ve never driven a student home, every district I worked for very seriously frowned upon teachers doing so. I have a single friend and coworker who gave my daughter a ride home, admin required a letter from me absolving the district from any liability.

    If the charges are accurate, then the teacher and the administrator should face losing not just their jobs, but also their certs. The two suspects should face jail time (or juvenile detention time). But asking questions about the legitimately weird elements of this case isn’t dismissing the accusations or putting blame on the victim. The logical extension of the questions involve more “where the hell was the teacher,” and “why the hell didn’t the teacher report this” much more than any attempt to blame the teacher. But last I checked, the assumption in our legal system is innocent until proven guilty, so actually investigating the case might be something we want to consider…

  26. Ben P says

    I don’t care whether you find it objectionable.

    The epidemic nature of reflexive disbelief of rape victims is well documented and I am continuously confronted by the actual people whose lives have been refragmented by it.

    Your concern it noted.

    So your response is to say that if a rape allegation is made, it must be true, punish the bastards! Anything else is “blaming the victim” and therefore impermissible?

    Gee, I wish I could file lawsuits and tell defendants that they’re not allowed to challenge what I say, I’d be rich!

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