A Fayette County School System tribunal in early October resulted in an appeal to the state and pending legal action filed on behalf of a 16-year-old girl whose attorney said she suffered a sexual assault by a 16-year-old male at Fayette County High School and has not received the justice she deserved.
Attorney Suri Chadha Jimenez is representing the 16-year-old girl in the expected legal proceeding. Jimenez said his client was expelled for reporting a sexual assault.
“Had she not reported the assault, she would not have faced disciplinary action,” said Jimenez. “This is a violation of (federal) Title IX (equal access to education) and she was never even contacted by a Title IX coordinator in the district to investigate the matter.”
Jimenez said the incident occurred in an alcove area at Fayette County High School on Aug. 23. Occurring after school, Jimenez said the girl was in an extra-credit classroom when she received a text from the boy asking her to meet him. The girl had a crush on the boy and met him, the attorney said. The two were in the alcove area for approximately an hour and a half, Jimenez said.
During the incident, the girl was coerced and, at one point, performed oral sex for 2-3 seconds, said Jimenez, adding that the boy choked her twice with his hands, and on the second occasion she fell to the floor.
During the time in the alcove, a teacher, a janitor and a number of students walked by the area, Jimenez said, adding that the teacher the next day spoke with the girl and could tell something was wrong, insisting that she go to a counselor.
“My client didn’t want to get him in trouble. She was ashamed and couldn’t talk about it, and she wrote the word ‘head’ on a piece of paper,” said Jimenez, noting that the confidentiality the girl was promised was not forthcoming.
Jimenez said the girl, who is learning disabled, was not referred for help. After writing the word on the paper, Jimenez said school administration was informed.
“They suspended both, and said they could go to the alternative school. We said, ‘no’ and wanted a (tribunal) hearing,” said Jimenez.
The tribunal occurred in early October, with Jimenez saying that during the proceedings it was stated bu school officials that “she wanted to do it, it was consensual and hence a violation, and that she wanted to give him a birthday present.”
“She can go to the alternative school, but the mom is absolutely not willing to do that,” Jimenez said. “We want the school to be held accountable.”
Jimenez said that accountability will come in the form of a Title 9 proceeding and the expectation that the school system will pay for a private school for the girl.
The bottom line, said Jimenez, is that “She sought protection from counselors and they betrayed her trust. The principal had a duty to protect (her), but he instead demeaned her during the discipline hearing by saying that she was giving the other student a birthday gift without any evidence to support this statement. There was no evidence of consent or intent by (the girl), and the school, therefore, had no evidence to justify an expulsion. According to the code of conduct, her expulsion was excessive and equivalent to the punishment a student would receive who committed a sexual battery.”
Contacted Saturday, Superintendent Jody Barrow said he could not comment on the issue, citing confidentiality requirements.
The tribunal results are being appealed to the State Board of Education.
Contacted about the incident, Fayetteville Police Department spokesman Chad Myers said the first the police heard of the incident was when a reporter arrived at the school last week. The school resource officer, a Fayetteville police officer, was not made aware of the issue when it occurred or since that time, Myers said.