A high school student has pled guilty to raping a classmate, nearly a year after the alleged incident. During that delay, he was allowed to continue to attend school, sparking outrage from other students and the local community.
But with so little guidance from the federal level about how schools should handle sexual assault allegations and how to punish them under Title IX, situations like these should not come as a surprise.
High School Boy Rapes Classmate, Stays in School
The incident happened in the Niagara Wheatfield Senior High School in Sanborn, New York, a town of barely more than 1,500 to the north of Buffalo.
A male student there admitted to raping a classmate in her home at some point in the summer of 2018. The incident was not reported for a few months, but when it was the high school decided that the male student was entitled to an education pending the outcome of the criminal charges.
It was not until May 2019, that the student pled guilty to third-degree rape, a felony sex offense. A few days later, word of the guilty plea reached the school and they refused to let the student enter school property because he was a convicted felon.
For nearly the whole school year, though, the alleged victim and perpetrator were in the same classes and hallways, a situation that, according to the victim's mother, was incredibly traumatizing.
Hundreds of other students at the school had planned a walkout in support of the victim. The situation has led the school district to put the school's principal on administrative leave.
The male student has since been sentenced to one-year probation in order to earn a youthful offender status and have his background cleared.
A Lack of Uniformity and Preparedness at the High School Level
The underlying problem in situations like these is that the school district is put in an impossible position: If they had chosen to kick the male student out while his case progressed through the criminal court system, he would have been the one to press Title IX charges.
It's just one more example of how little uniformity there is when it comes to enforcing Title IX claims. District officials have to make judgment calls with very little guidance from Title IX regulations or precedent. With so few rules to look to, no matter what they do will get challenged from one side or the other.
To make matters worse, high schools in the U.S. have to deal with Title IX allegations less often than colleges do, leaving them even less prepared when one is made. That there are not more stories of incredible missteps like this one is what is truly shocking.
Title IX Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a Title IX defense lawyer who helps students accused of sexual assault in the education setting. He also serves as a national Title IX advisor to students facing Title IX charges. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686.