Family Sues Idaho School District Over Handling of Assault
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The principal of an Idaho school where a 13-year-old reported she was raped by an older student says surveillance video of the incident appeared to her to show "wrong acts of affection."
Kelly Chapman, the principal of Shoshone Middle and High School, made the statement in Boise's U.S. District Court on Tuesday. The family of the girl has sued the Shoshone School District alleging that Chapman and other school officials denied the girl an education after the assault by creating a hostile environment and subjecting her to sexual discrimination.
The lawsuit says a prominent high school student athlete was charged and later pleaded guilty in juvenile court to several counts of lewd conduct with a child under the age of 16 in connection with the incident.
The jury began hearing arguments in the civil case on Monday.
According to court documents, the boy was a 17-year-old high school junior and the girl was an eighth-grader at the adjoining middle school when the assaults occurred on two consecutive days in the school computer lab. It was the second day when Chapman found the students in the lab and sent them back to their classrooms after they said they were watching Netflix.
After talking about the situation with a school counselor, Chapman looked at the security video from the computer lab and, seeing the sexual activity, called the police.
In court documents, the girl's attorney said the surveillance video shows the child was violently raped, with the 17-year-old student at times grabbing her by the hair and forcibly bending her backward over a chair by the neck.
But Chapman testified she believed the video showed no acts of force by the boy, but instead revealed "wrong acts of affection" between two people in an intimate relationship. Clips of the video were shown to the jurors during Chapman's testimony.
The girl's family contends that after the assault was discovered, she was given the option to stop attending school completely or to have her assignments sent home to be completed by her there. The family opted to have her do her assignments at home, but contends she was only given a couple before they stopped completely. As a result, the family says in the lawsuit, they had to move to Gooding so she could continue her education in a different school.
The family says they are destitute because of the move and that the girl suffers from PTSD and other problems because of the way school officials handled the assault. They're also asking for monetary damages for civil rights violations of at least $5 million.
Chapman said in court the school was just waiting to hear from the family if the girl wanted to return.
"We discussed a plan that was going to be in place if the family made the decision that she was going to come back to school," she said.
She also said she didn't check to see if the teachers were giving the girl her assignments, but said some were sent to her electronically, through a school-issued laptop.
The trial is expected to continue throughout the week.