An ongoing series of sexual misconduct allegations in a Maine high school erupted onto the national stage when the school suspended a girl for claiming there was a rapist in the school. Now, the ACLU is helping her sue the school for alleged Title IX and First Amendment violations.
But the school's defense suggests that there is more to the case than meets the eye. Those inconsistencies make one wonder what victims' rights advocates expect when they fight for survivors of sexual assault.
Maine High Schooler Claims There's a Rapist in Her School
The issues all began in early October, when a female sophomore at Cape Elizabeth High School, in southern Maine, posted a sticky note on a bathroom mirror that said, “There's a rapist in our school and you know who it is.”
The student claims that it was done to raise awareness for sexual assault in high schools, in general, and because she didn't think her particular school took allegations seriously enough. The school, though, noted that her conduct made certain male students feel unsafe and targeted and suspended her for bullying behavior – a suspension that led to a student walkout at the school.
Suspension Sends Lawsuit Flying
Advocates for victims of sexual assault were quick to jump on the school's decision. Less expected, though, was the action that came from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). They filed a lawsuit on the student's behalf, claiming that the school violated her First Amendment rights to free speech by suspending her for posting the note.
A federal judge issued a temporary stay on the girl's suspension, saying that there were First Amendment implications that warranted deeper review before the suspension could go forward.
Numerous Facts Overlooked, Including by Judge Issuing Stay
In granting a stay on the suspension, the federal judge claimed that the note was “not disruptive of school discipline.”
But that seems to be far from the case. School officials and the local newspaper noted that the “rumor mill spun out of control” after the girl posted her note in the bathroom. Those rumors, as one would expect in a high school, rested on particular students who felt isolated, judged, and vulnerable.
They felt bullied. So bullied, in fact, that one of the students targeted by the rumors felt so unsafe that he missed 8 days of school.
Yet when the school suspended the girl who posted the note, she expressed outrage that school administrators chose to investigate her claim that there was a rapist in the school. In her mind, the school should have investigated the student who brought her note to the attention of the school administration.
Joseph D. Lento: Title IX Defense
Advocates for alleged victims of sexual assault claim that they are still not being heard or believed. But it seems that they are confusing being “heard and believed” with the power to point a finger at someone and for the axe to fall without a question asked.
In this kind of climate, it is even more important to hire a Title IX defense lawyer like Joseph D. Lento if you have been accused of sexual misconduct in the school setting. Contact him online or call his law office at (888) 535-3686.