A former student has filed a federal lawsuit against Lebanon Community Schools, claiming the corporation showed indifference to her complaints that she was the victim of sexual harassment and bullying from an older male student.
The school's responses to her initial complaints violate Title IX which bars discrimination on the basis of sex, the lawsuit claims. Also, recipients of such complaints are to resolve the issue.
Brett Osborne, Indianapolis attorney for the victim known only as "Jane Doe," filed the lawsuit last week. Osborne did not return a call seeking comment.
The girl was a 12-year-old seventh-grader when a high school freshman, described in the suit as a prominent member of the football team, "coerced" her into sending him nude images while he was at football camp in August 2014, according to the lawsuit. The boy, identified as "John Doe," shared the images with other students, she claims.
The girl's parents reported the incident to Lebanon Police who reportedly informed John Doe of the report. However, the lawsuit claims that the girl's family was not interviewed or contacted and never told the status of the case by police, nor school officials. The police department is not named in the lawsuit.
The family notified the school corporation, which reportedly said it would rely on a police investigation but never told Jane Doe's family of any outcome, the lawsuit claims. However, the school district reportedly told the family the matter would be dropped because investigations of electronically-stored and distributed sexually explicit material were not permitted.
The suit claims that as word circulated about the photos, the girl was subject to bullying and harassment by other students, both verbally and physically, in hallways, classrooms and at athletic fields. She was also sexually harassed on the internet, the lawsuit claims, with students posting "vulgar, demeaning, derogatory and harassing messages" through social media.
The girl was also placed in a school activity that was coached by a relative of John Doe's, according to the lawsuit. She later withdrew from the school district.
On March 6, 2016, high school students reportedly had videos on their electronic devices showing the girl in sexual situations; the videos were recorded during the earlier incident in 2014, according to the lawsuit.
School officials reportedly told her to document possible harassment, which she did. However, that did not stop the bullying or harassment, she claimed.
Lebanon schools had the authority and responsibility to take remedial action, but did not, the lawsuit claims.
The girl says she became afraid to seek help from teachers and found it difficult to concentrate in the classroom. She frequently became tearful and left class.
She underwent counseling for depression and anxiety as her grades dropped and, as a result of the school's lack of action, she was denied the education to which she was entitled by law, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, including compensation for her psychological and emotional distress, loss of standing in her community, damage to her reputation, expenses to respond to the circumstances, and punitive damages.
The school corporation issued a written response to a request for comment Wednesday through spokeswoman Jen Todderud, who said, "Lebanon Community School Corporation has recently learned of a federal lawsuit alleging Title IX violations. We have forwarded all materials to our district's legal counsel, and it is not our practice to comment on ongoing litigation."
Todderud included the corporation's anti-harassment policy with her statement. It begins: "It is the policy of the board of school trustees to maintain an education and work environment that is free from all forms of unlawful harassment, including sexual harassment, occurring in the corporation's educational opportunities, programs, and/or activities, or, if initially occurring off corporation grounds or outside the corporation's educational opportunities, programs, and activities, affecting the corporation environment …"