A former Jackson Hole High School student is suing the school district and several of its employees on claims they retaliated against her after she reported being sexually assaulted by a classmate.
The federal lawsuit, filed against Teton County School District No. 1 by attorney Jack Edwards on June 24 in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming, says the 17-year-old, referred to as Jane Doe in the complaint, “was subjected to severe student-against-student harassment and retaliation after reporting to TCSD officials that a TCSD student sexually assaulted her.”
The lawsuit goes on to say 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, for treating Jane Doe differently than the classmate she said assaulted and then harassed her. (See sidebar on page 23).
“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.”
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.
“The district is unable to comment on pending litigation,” Teton County School District Director of Communications Charlotte Reynolds said.
The plaintiff said she was raped by a fellow student in the summer of 2017 when she was 14 years old.
“After the assault [alleged suspect] sent Snapchat messages to plaintiff expressing regret for his actions,” the complaint states.
It states that the girl was scared to tell anyone what happened but felt “hurt, scared, hollow, and angry” and was unable to avoid him at school.
She started to suffer from panic attacks and suicidal thoughts, the lawsuit states.
The teen sought “counseling external to JHHS” in October 2017 after her friends told a high school counselor about the student wanting to hurt herself.
That fall the teen’s mother, referred to as Jackie Doe or Mrs. Doe in the lawsuit, reported to a Jackson Hole High School counselor that another boy was bullying her daughter publicly and privately.
“The harassment was bold, severe and unchecked,” the complaint states.
The teen’s mom told the counselor that the boy was encouraging her daughter to kill herself.
“Upon information and belief JHHS administration performed no investigation and took little or no action to remedy this situation,” the lawsuit said.
The teen plaintiff was put into an inpatient crisis facility in winter 2018 for worrisome behavior, according to the complaint.
In March 2018 the school counselor notified the dean of students about the student’s mother’s claims. The dean said she would talk to the parents of the alleged bullies.
“Dean did not inform plaintiff nor Mrs. Doe whether any eventual action was taken by JHHS administration to remedy the situation,” the lawsuit said.
The teen eventually returned to school and by the end of the 2017-2018 school year her grades and attendance were slipping.
In January 2019 her parents put her back in an inpatient youth facility. Through therapy the student opened up about the 2017 rape to her therapist and her parents.
On Jan. 17, 2019, the teen reported the sexual assault to the school counselor with the help of her therapist, who facilitated the meeting. The school counselor said she could change the student’s classes around so she wouldn’t have to be in the same classes as the accused rapist.
“At no point during the meeting with [counselor] was plaintiff informed by [counselor] that plaintiff had 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 [alleged rape suspect] or that the school could do anything to protect plaintiff from subsequent harassment,” the lawsuit said.
“All JHHS staff are required to immediately notify a school administrator of any act of violence they have knowledge of, have witnessed or received,” it states.
The school counselor told administrators about the plaintiff’s claim of sexual assault.
On Jan. 23, 2019, the plaintiff’s therapist reported it to School Resource Officer Deputy Andrew Roundy.
“Although [school counselor] and [vice principal Daniel] Abraham had mandatory reporting duties under Wyoming law they had not yet reported plaintiff’s sexual assault to law enforcement,” the lawsuit states.
The Teton County Sheriff’s Office promptly scheduled a forensic interview of the plaintiff, which took place Jan. 24, 2019.
The case was then transferred to the Jackson Police Department because the alleged rape happened in the town’s jurisdiction, according to the lawsuit.
The suspect agreed to be interviewed by police in mid-February, but only if his lawyer could be there and if police agreed not to record the interview, the complaint claims.
The teenage boy told police the plaintiff had initiated sexual acts, and that when she said no he stopped.
“[Alleged suspect] further alleged that plaintiff made up the assault accusation because he lost interest in the relationship and would not give plaintiff attention,” the lawsuit states.
The Jackson Police Department completed its investigation in March 2019 and forwarded it to the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office. No criminal case was ever prosecuted, according to the plaintiff’s attorney.
The lawsuit claims that when the teenage boy found out the assault was reported to police he and his friends started sexually harassing Jane Doe, spreading sexual rumors about her and retaliating by spreading stories about her having made threats of violence.
“Instead of investigating the conduct of [alleged rape suspect] and his friends targeting plaintiff for harassment and false accusations, JHHS administration investigated and disciplined plaintiff,” the complaint states.
Mrs. Doe researched who Teton County School District’s Title IX coordinator was, but upon contacting her, learned she was no longer employed with the school district, the lawsuit said.
In May 2019 Mrs. Doe 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, 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 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.
“Those are routine,” Daugherty told the News&Guide. “I perform several per year. This year I’ve done eight.”
Daugherty said the school district is required by Wyoming law to investigate students who are believed to not live in the same county as the school.
“I send them a letter and give them a reasonable amount of time to enroll in the district they reside,” Daugherty said.
Daugherty said a “reasonable time” is about a month.
“These are kids, and we care about kids,” Daugherty said. “We also need to make sure we are in compliance with state statute.”
The school district’s policy allows out-of-state students, like those living in Idaho, to remain enrolled if they pay tuition. It asks in-state students who have moved out of the county to submit an out-of-area request. School capacity is considered in approving those exceptions.
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.”
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.
Calls to the individual defendants named in the lawsuit were not returned. Their answers to the suit are due this summer.