Teton County School District Administration Building

Teton County School District has settled a case with a former student who sued over claims that she was ignored and then punished after she reported being raped and subsequently harassed.

U.S. Magistrate Judge for the District of Wyoming Mark Carman entered notice of the settlement Oct. 27 in one of two Title IX cases filed against the district last year. Chief U.S. District Judge for the District of Wyoming Scott Skavdahl terminated the case Nov. 15.

The federal lawsuit, filed against Teton County School District No. 1 by attorneys Jack Edwards and Kaden Canfield on June 24, 2020 in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming, claimed that a 17-year-old referred to as Jane Doe “was subjected to severe student-against-student harassment and retaliation after reporting to TCSD officials that a TCSD student sexually assaulted her.”

The lawsuit named Superintendent Gillian Chapman, Jackson Hole High School Principal Scott Crisp, former Vice Principal Daniel Abraham and the district’s board of trustees as defendants. This was the first of two Title IX lawsuits filed against the school district in a seven-month span. The second one, filed in December 2020, included similar claims that the school retaliated against a female student after she reported being sexually assaulted by a classmate.

Both lawsuits claimed that the school district violated Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program.

“TCSD officials with authority to stop the harassment and retaliation disregarded her reports, acted with deliberate indifference to the assault and sexual harassment,” the complaint states. “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.”

Teton County School District Communications Director Charlotte Reynolds told the News&Guide that the school district’s top priority is that its students and staff feel safe when they come to its schools.

“We take all reports of any type of harassment — sexual harassment and otherwise — very seriously and follow all regulations outlined under Title IX, including accepting reports,” Reynolds said.

The second Title IX lawsuit, which has not yet been decided, accuses the school district of doing the opposite.

“Many more victims have chosen to remain silent due to TCSD’s history of poor response to allegations and reports of sexual harassment,” the second Title IX 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 events leading to the first Title IX lawsuit began in the summer of 2017 when a person referred to in the court file with initials and and described as “a champion debater and speaker who also participated in school choir and Model United Nations,” allegedly raped the plaintiff, referred to in court files as Jane Doe.

When the following school year began, and Jane Doe was a freshman, she experienced panic attacks and began harming herself to cope with the depression and ongoing suicidal ideation, the court file states. That fall her mother reported to high school Counselor Emily Hoffer that another male student was harassing her and, according to court files, “encouraging Plaintiff to kill herself.”

“Upon information and belief,” the lawsuit states, “JHHS administration performed no investigation and took little or no action to remedy the situation.”

The following year, Jane Doe’s mother told Hoffer that students were allegedly bullying her daughter about cutting herself and encouraging her to kill herself. Hoffer told the dean of students about the report, but according to court files neither Jane Doe nor her mother received any indication that the school administration took action to remedy the situation.

Jane Doe’s parents placed her in an inpatient facility due to her ongoing mental health challenges in January 2019, where she finally opened up to her therapist about the alleged rape in the summer of 2017. At that point, court files state, the school district likely did not know about the rape.

That changed Jan. 17, 2019, when Jane Doe and her therapist met with Hoffer, told her about the rape and informed her about her mental health and how it affected every aspect of her life. According to court files, Hoffer offered only to rearrange Jane Doe’s classes to avoid seeing the classmate accused of raping her and to seek leave for her to turn in assignments late.

She allegedly did not inform Jane Doe about her being able to report the assault to a school district Title IX coordinator or tell the teen about her “rights as a victim under Title IX, or that the school could open a Title IX investigation, or that the school could take action against [the alleged rapist], or that the school could do anything to protect Plaintiff from subsequent harassment.”

Additionally, court files state that neither the counselor nor the vice principal reported the rape to law enforcement even though they had mandatory reporting duties. Instead, it took Jane Doe’s therapist to report the alleged crime to the high school resource officer, which led to the Teton County Sheriff’s Office interviewing the classmate.

By March 2019, Jackson police, who took over the case, completed their interview and forwarded the case to the Teton County Attorney’s Office. Thereafter, court files state, the student and his friends allegedly began sexually harassing Jane Doe and falsely accusing her of disciplinary infractions.

Additionally, he allegedly reported to the Teton County Sheriff’s Office that Jane Doe was attempting to break a window at his house, even though she was apparently in another town.

Soon after, Jane Doe’s mother researched who the district’s Title IX coordinator was but, upon contacting her, learned she was no longer employed with the district, the lawsuit states.

In May 2019, Jane Doe’s mother, known as Mrs. Doe in the court file, asked for a meeting with school administrators.

“Administrators informed Mrs. Doe that they were unfamiliar with Title IX or how it applied to the situation,” the lawsuit said. “They told Mrs. Doe that no investigation had been performed into [alleged suspect’s] rape of plaintiff.”

The lawsuit also claims that Mrs. Doe asked the administrators who the district’s Title IX coordinator was and they said they didn’t know.

Reynolds said she was appointed the Title IX coordinator in December 2019.

“Prior to that it would have been the superintendent,” she said.

The complaint states that after the meeting between her mom and school administration, the plaintiff was asked to sign a no-contact order and was barred from parts of the high school.

On Sept. 19, 2019, former district Assistant Superintendent Jeff Daugherty showed up at the plaintiff’s house to perform a random residency check, the lawsuit said, and ended up removing the plaintiff and her sibling from the Teton County School District because their family had moved from Jackson to Alpine and had not used the district’s out-of-county enrollment process.

The lawsuit states that rape culture in schools is common, quoting the 1998 U.S. Supreme Court: “The number of reported cases involving sexual harassment of students in schools confirms that harassment unfortunately is an all too common aspect of the educational experience.”

Together with the nationwide prevalence of sexual harassment in schools was the school district’s alleged betrayal of victims, according to the second Title IX lawsuit filed against the Teton County School District, on Dec. 30, 2020, in U.S. District Court by attorneys Kaden Canfield and Jack Edwards of Etna-based Edwards Law Office P.C.

That 58-page lawsuit claims that the school district violated its federal Title IX requirements and failed to report the assaults to law enforcement.

In the second lawsuit, lawyers argued 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.”

Reynolds said the district “as a practice” does not comment on matters involving litigation, but continued:

“I can say that the district has confirmed with legal counsel that its policies, practices and training meet or exceed the Title IX legal requirements, and we feel confident that our employees have demonstrated that they continuously strive to act in good faith and in the best interest of students, which is always our top priority.”

Contact Alexander Shur at 732-7066 or courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

Alexander has reported on courts and crime since June 2021. A fan of all things outdoors, he came to Teton County after studying journalism at Northwestern University.

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