A federal civil rights lawsuit filed last week against Teton County School District No. 1 and some of its employees claims they ignored a student’s reports that she was sexually assaulted three different times by two classmates.
Filed Dec. 30 in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming by attorneys Kaden Canfield and Jack Edwards of Etna-based Edwards Law Office P.C., the 58-page lawsuit claims that the school disctrict violated its federal Title IX requirements and failed to report the assaults to law enforcement.
“When plaintiff reported to TCSD administrators that she had been raped by TCSD students and pled for help the very administrators that were charged with protecting plaintiff ignored and betrayed her, telling her that ‘boys will be boys,’ ” the lawsuit claims.
It’s the second Title IX lawsuit filed against the school district in a six-month span. The first one, filed over the summer, includes similar claims that the school retaliated against a female student after she reported being sexually assaulted by a classmate.
Both lawsuits claim that the school district is in violation of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program. (see sidebar)
In the suit filed last week, lawyers argue that “rape culture” is prevalent at Jackson Hole High School.
“The issue at JHHS is systemic, and the culture, predatory,” the lawsuit states. “Consent is not a value. Coercion is the baseline.”
In the new suit the teen plaintiff is referred to by the pseudonym Rachel Roe.
The lawsuit names Superintendent Gillian Chapman, Jackson Hole High School Principal Scott Crisp, Vice Principal Daniel Abraham and the district’s board of trustees as defendants.
When reached Tuesday, Teton County School District Director of Communications Charlotte Reynolds said, “the district is unable to comment on pending litigation.”
The suit says Roe was first sexually assaulted when she was a freshman. Her first kiss after the 2017 homecoming dance quickly turned into rape, the suit alleges.
“[Alleged rape suspect] continued to hold plaintiff down and assault her. She pleaded with him to stop. She tried to push him off,” the suit states.
The same teen, the suit says, sexually assaulted her again a few weeks later on school grounds during a football game.
“She struggled to push him away, and he only stopped when a car drove nearby,” the suit says. “He assured plaintiff his actions were normal and that was just how boys show girls they like them.”
Roe confided in a close friend, who told her she’d been sexually assaulted.
Her grades started to decline and she was distant with her friends, the suit says, so in February 2018 her parents met with the high school counselor to figure out “her sudden scholarly and social decline.”
“It was at this time that plaintiff first confided to her mother that she had been sexually assaulted by [alleged rape suspect] and that the assault and subsequent sexualized rumors at JHHS were the cause of her sudden change in behavior,” the suit states.
The filing says Roe’s harassment at school continued despite several meetings with her parents and school administrators.
“In mid-July of 2018 plaintiff attempted suicide but was stopped by members of her family,” the suit states. “She was admitted to an inpatient therapy program.”
Two months later, the lawsuit says, Roe was raped again, this time by a different classmate.
“After meeting up he led her to a ‘secluded alcove’ near the Snow King Sports & Events Center,” the suit states. “They started watching a movie on his phone. He brought alcohol and encouraged she drink more and more. She became tired, groggy and dizzy. She noticed it seemed like he was only pretending to drink with her. When she was drunk he removed her clothes and raped her.”
The alleged suspect left her there and slipped money for a Plan B pill into her pocket, the court documents say.
A few days later the alleged suspect messaged Roe to alert her of the cash he had left, but Roe soon discovered she was pregnant.
She got an abortion, which the lawsuit said was “very painful to plaintiff, both physically and emotionally.”
The suit says it wasn’t until the end of September of 2018 when the school resource officer got a report from a student about the sexual assaults. The officer “reported to Abraham that JHHS students were under investigation for raping plaintiff.”
“At this time Abraham informed him that [second alleged rape suspect] had a reputation of getting female students intoxicated and then taking advantage of them sexually,” the lawsuit says.
The Snow King rape investigation was turned over to the Jackson Police Department. According to reports, six teenagers were interviewed and 20 pieces of evidence collected. The investigation wrapped up in 2018 and was forwarded to the Teton County and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Because those involved were juveniles at the time, police said, it’s unknown if charges were filed.
“Her rapists and their friends called her a whore, slut and liar in the school hallways,” court documents allege.
Roe eventually transferred out of state to a different high school because of the bullying at the Jackson high school, the lawsuit says.
“Many more victims have chosen to remain silent due to TCSD’s history of poor response to allegations and reports of sexual harassment,” the lawsuit reads. “Along with telling plaintiff that boys will be boys TCSD administrators suggested that plaintiff’s experience was not unique or as bad as she thought because she was not the only victim dealing with sexual assault and harassment at JHHS.”
The similar lawsuit filed over the summer is still pending, according to the federal court docket.
The school district tried to get it dismissed in August 2020, according to records, “arguing the court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to decide this matter and plaintiff fails to state claims upon which relief may be granted under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act.”
A school district can be found liable in a civil rights action, the court wrote in its order denying the motion for dismissal.
“The court finds defendants have failed to set forth any legal basis supporting the requested dismissal under Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,” the court wrote.
In 2011 the Natrona County School District paid a Casper woman $60,000 in a settlement in a Title IX bullying suit. The woman sued claiming the school district did not protect her daughter from months of bullying, according to reporting by the Casper Star-Tribune.
Reynolds, the communications director, told the News&Guide previously that she was appointed as the Title IX coordinator in December 2019.
Both students’ lawsuits claim there was no Title IX coordinator when the students made their sexual assault claims and that no independent investigations under that law were done.
“TCSD appointed Charlotte Reynolds as its Title IX Coordinator in December 2019,” the lawsuit states, “well after plaintiff was forced to leave JHHS and TCSD and relocate to another state just so that she could have access to safe education environment.”
If you’re a victim of sexual assault or found the coverage of these claims triggering you’re encouraged to call the Community Safety Network at 733-7233.