Legal Services NYC has filed a lawsuit against the NYC Department of Education on behalf of four girls, alleging school officials did nothing to protect them against sexual assault.
According to the lawsuit, the girls, who are students of color with disabilities, reported incidents of sexual assault to school officials multiple times, but they didn’t do anything to stop it.
Jane Doe, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, has autism and was allegedly first sexually abused by a classmate in 2016. The lawsuit says a boy in her grade started groping her. After Jane Doe and her mom reported the incident, the boy was suspended for a while, but he still continued to harass Doe for years. Last fall, this boy allegedly raped her in a stairwell and she has recently switched schools.
Maria Doe, another plaintiff in the lawsuit, has a learning disability and was allegedly taunted, punched and sexually assaulted by a student who put his hand up her skirt, and another who touched her breast.
“We wanted to bring this lawsuit not only to address the pervasive sexual assault in NYC schools but the failure of the schools to address the trauma and its impact on students’ mental and emotional health,” said Katrina Feldkamp, Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by The Arnold & Porter Foundation at Bronx Legal Services.
The Department of Education says that all schools have to have a designated liaison in charge of sexual harassment prevention, and there are strict protocols for immediate reporting and investigation of incidents.
Despite all of that, members of the New York City Council’s education committee are concerned that the DOE doesn’t have enough staff dedicated to Title IX compliance, which may have led to the problems mentioned in the lawsuit.
“There’s only one Title IX coordinator for our whole school system that’s comprised of 1.1 million students,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger, chairman of the education committee. “It’s insulting and outrageous that there’s only one person in this role.”
The lawsuit seeks damages for the victims and demands systematic change at the education department such as, easy to understand policies and more staff.