Magic Valley School district settles sex assault case involving student
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho school district and a girl who sued after she was sexually assaulted by an older student and forced to move to another community reached a settlement, hours after a jury began deliberating.
The family of the girl sued the Shoshone School District alleging that school principal Kelly Chapman and other officials denied the girl an education after the assault by creating a hostile environment and subjecting her to sexual discrimination. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Neither of the lead attorneys could be immediately reached for comment on Monday.
According to the lawsuit, the girl was 13 when she was assaulted by a 17-year-old student — a popular athlete — in the school's computer lab. It was discovered when Chapman found both students in the lab and later reviewed surveillance video from the room.
Her family contended that after the assault was discovered, she was given the option to stop attending school or to have her assignments sent home, while the boy was allowed to continue attending school.
The family opted for assignments at home for a time but contended she was only provided a couple of lessons before they stopped being sent to their home. As a result, the family wrote said they had to move to another community so she could continue her education. The girl's mother testified she wanted her daughter to return to the Shoshone school, but first needed to know her daughter would be safe from the teen who assaulted her.
But Chapman and the school district contended they were waiting for the girl's family to advise them on how to proceed. If they'd been told she wanted to return to Shoshone, Chapman said in court, they would have transferred the boy to another school or taken other steps to ensure the girl was safe.
Lee Schlender, the girl's attorney, said the school favored the star athlete and then tried to spin the facts and change evidence to hide discrimination against the girl. The older teen was later convicted of lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor involving the attack, but his client was the one who had to uproot her life.
"They didn't even bother taking it to the school board," Schlender said. "Shouldn't the board of trustees been involved in something this horrendous?"
He noted the older teen was able to graduate while his client had to move away. "You know that these people looked at that same clip, and then did nothing except perpetuate the horrible damage done to this kid."
The school district's attorney, James Reid, pointed out that it was Chapman who discovered the assault, called police and notified the girl's family.
"If they were manufacturing a cover story and not going to do anything, she didn't have to do anything at that point," he said.
He said any trauma experienced by the girl was from the sexual assault, not the actions of school officials.
"They suspended (the older teen), they gave (the girl) options to see what she wanted to do," Reid said. "...This was an evolving, fluid situation ... they were trying their best to deal with the situation as it presented."
By REBECCA BOONE Associated Press