Metro Nashville Schools must pay a former student $75,000, Judge Aleta A. Trauger ordered recently. The court’s decision stems from a 2017 lawsuit filed by the mother of a then-15 year old girl, referred to as “S.C.,” who was allegedly raped at Hunters Lane High School by a fellow student. The assault was video recorded and then disseminated.
Judged Trauger wrote that “the video – which was, by any reasonable definition, child pornography – spread quickly, both between S.C.’s peers and on third-party websites.”
S.C. did not return to campus after the assault, court documents note, and while she was considered a ‘homebound’ student, “she had been harassed by students seeking to discourage her participation in MNPS’s investigation into the events.” She and her family received multiple threats.
The ruling explained that according to the lawsuit, the school’s Title IX counselor, Julie McCargar, had not been reported on “all incidents raising Title IX issues… and MNPS’s system for tracking disciplinary incidents, in practice, allowed some incidents with sexual characteristics to nevertheless be logged using codes that did not indicate their sexual nature or the potential Title IX implications.”
Due to this, McCargar “did not have a full picture of the scope of the challenges facing MNPS regarding student-on-student harassment,” particularly student-on-student harassment involving the circulation of sexual videos and images.
“That lack of a full understanding of the problem translated to a general lack of uniform policies and emphasis regarding how such problems should be handled at MNPS schools. Rather, school administrators were frequently left to handle such incidents themselves, based on their own judgment, training, and expertise.”
During the trial, S.C. testified that “she was shown multiple such videos by another student during class at Hunters Lane.” She claimed the school administrators had not done much to respond to the incident. She continued the school never held meetings on what to do if the videos arose, nor did they explain Title IX’s involvement in the school.
S.C. said in court that the circulation of the videos were “exposing,” and after “that student – if a girl – would be ‘bullied, mocked, ridiculed, [and] made fun of’ by her peers, while any male student involved would be treated like ‘the most popular person in school.'”
After her incident, S.C. said she did not tell authorities because “she had been worried that ‘either [she] would get in trouble or . . . the kids [at the school] would bully me’… She said that she did not think the school would protect her, ‘[b]ecause they didn’t protect anyone else.'”
Court records showed that the Executive Principal, Dr. Susan Kessler, was aware of the threats to S.C. and her family, but according to S.C.’s mother, “Dr. Kessler did not ask any follow-up questions about the content of the threats, nor did she seek any kind of detailed statement regarding the threats.”
Judge Trauger wrote that “by her own admission, [Kessler] failed to fill out a Bullying and Harassment Reporting Form, even though it would have been standard operating procedure to do so.”
S.C. later moved schools, where she was continually harassed by other students about the video. She testified that she began to self-harm and contemplate suicide.
Judge Trauger concluded S.C. “has every right to believe that she has been failed – failed by the police, failed by her school, and now failed by the federal court,” and MNPS was found liable for damages under Title IX.
That former student is now an adult and “is pursuing the claims in her own right.”
Read the full decision:
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