School District Allegedly Expelled 7th-Grader for Reporting Her Rape

by Christie Thompson @ The Ms Magazine Blog

The Republic School District in Springfield, MO, is facing a lawsuit for allegedly ignoring a young victim’s multiple rapes and then expelling her for reporting her attacker. The story is yet another awful example of the victim-blaming culture surrounding  rape in schools. Like the recent story of the young cheerleader in  Texas–who was kicked off the squad for refusing to cheer on her  rapist–it seems that schools too often victimize the very students  they should be protecting.

According to the lawsuit [PDF], a 7th-grade special-needs student had been repeatedly harassed and assaulted by a male classmate, which escalated into him raping her on their middle school campus. When the victim reported it, school officials allegedly told the girl during their first meeting that they did not believe her. They allegedly failed to refer her to a counselor or sexual assault forensic examiner or to report her rapist to county authorities, as Missouri state law would mandate.

Instead, the lawsuit says, she was coerced into taking back her allegations, as well as made to write and hand-deliver an apology letter to her attacker. School officials allegedly expelled her from school for the rest of the year and referred her to juvenile authorities for filing a false report.

She was allowed to return to school the next fall only, she says, to face once again verbal and physical harassment from her attacker, which she kept silent about for fear of being further punished. Then, the lawsuit reports:

On or about February 16, 2010 … not being subject to any surveillance  or monitoring, [the attacker] was able to hunt her down, drag her to the  back of the school library, and again forcibly rape her.

When she finally came forward about the incident, the school allegedly again expressed skepticism and failed to take action. Her mother took the girl to complete a rape kit, which confirmed sexual assault, and the DNA results matched the accused. He pleaded guilty to the charges and is serving time in juvenile detention.

Even then, the lawsuit days, the school board inexplicably still suspended the the victim for “disrespectful conduct” and “public display of affection.”

While the lawsuit, filed July 29, has yet to be decided, here is what we do know: The victim was raped at least once by the young man she identified as her attacker. The school district continues to deny this and accuse the victim of lying about it.

It’s hard to see motivate a young girl to fabricate multiple rapes, given the secondary trauma she went through in reporting them. It’s easier to imagine why a school district might be reluctant to admit a rape had occurred on supposedly supervised school grounds.

Most upsetting is the way the school district has attempted to  trivialize the victim’s claims, going so far as to blame the special-needs seventh-grader for not better protecting herself from being  raped at school. It has dismissed the victim’s accusations of truly egregious misconduct as “frivolous,” saying that the student  “failed and neglected to use reasonable means to protect her self.” Take a moment to ponder what “reasonable means” 7th-graders are supposed to be taking to protect themselves from rape on school grounds. Karate lessons?

When will school authorities stop persecuting and start protecting young victims of sexual assault? Join Broadblogs, Ms. and in supporting the victim and holding the Republic School District accountable. Click here.

This piece originally appeared on the Ms. Magazine Blog

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on September 12, 2011, in feminism, gender, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. After reading this article, I felt so heartbroken and disappointed with the way the school district handled this rape case in particular, one that involved a special need student. Instead of the district coming up with measures to protect students from rape, and creating a safe environment, they instead bash the morals of those students who even have the guts to speak up considering the fact that rape or abuse can be demoralizing.
    I believe that it is the school’s uttermost responsibility to protect the students from unsafe activities such as rape instead of bestowing this responsibility upon the students, especial seven graders. The school can maintain a safe environment by educating and encourage students on how to protect themselves and to report any perpetrators. In De Anza College, whistles are even handed out to students to blow out in case someone tries to rape them. I think this is a good measure to prevent rape and scare off any rapists.
    It’s quite true that some students may sometimes make up or exaggerate stories about someone raping them or abusing them, but I still think the school has a moral obligation of doing a thorough investigation, whenever such allegations are reported instead of ignoring them.

  2. This literally may be the most disgusting story I’ve ever read. It makes me think of the conversation we had at the end of class time last wednesday when rape was brought up. I feel like people really don’t quite get it unless they’ve been in that position. You never get over it, however many years pass. And to have a school punish you multiple times for telling someone that happened to you? Even AFTER it was proven to be true?? You’ve gotta be kidding me. This is disgusting and I hate that this is out in our world. And the part where they said the girl should have protected herself at school better so as not to get raped?? EW.

  3. I do not agree with the way that the school district has handled this. It is beyond me on how they believed that she would “fabricate multiple rapes.” The school district is the one that “failed and neglected to use reason means to protect [her].” They should’ve investigated further and decided to quickly brush her off because they wouldn’t admit that they were responsible for not keeping the school fully supervised. She is the victim, and her attacker assaulted her. How was it any of her fault? It is unfair how the school district dealt with this predicament. She has already braven up and went to an authority that she thought would be reliable to help her, and not only was she rejected, but she was punished asking for help. The school authorities need to stop denying this and instead help the seventh grader who has been sexually assaulted and hurt by her rapist.

  4. It makes me wonder how we as a society will ever be able to make the change to valuing and honoring woman, if girls in the 7th grade are being taught that they cannot be believed and supported by their elders or people in position of power over them, how can they ever learn to value themselves. Fortunately this girl and her Mother were strong enough to stand up and demand to be heard but how many young girls are being ignored and led to believe that somehow just by being a female it was their faults. How many young girls are too afraid to come forward or believe that they deserve or somehow provoked what has happened to them. How many young male are being allowed to have their deeds go unpunished and facing no consequences for their actions. It is a scary thought.
    Tami Hamilton

  5. I too find this article extremely disturbing. Schools are supposed to provide a place where the youth of our society can feel safe and protected. The fact that these sorts of crimes are occurring on school grounds is unbelievable. The fact that when this young girl reported the incident the first time there was no investigation is even more unbelievable. I hope that this is a big awakening for administrators across the country to never brush serious accusations such as this off as a student making it up. I don’t quite understand how something like this could occur not once but twice at school but hopefully these happenings will create a change in protection for students at schools. I was lucky enough to grow up in a public school system in which I felt extremely safe and protected as well as around people I could trust, and I wish that upon all students including this young girl.

  6. This article completely saddened and angered me. How the hell is a 7th grader, special needs or not suppose to protect themselves from rape. We have a hard enough time trying to figure out what women in general can do to protect themselves when they are getting raped but now there are suppose to be ways that a kids protects themselves?? INSANE!!! I feel really bad for the girl who tried to make the school believe her and for having to go through that again, what a horrible thing to have to go through. My only guess as to why the school didn’t believe her and expelled her from school was that the school was in a great neighborhood, probably has a great reputation and they did not want something like this ruining that. They probably wanted to brain wash her enough into making her think that it was her fault so that it doesn’t look so bad on them for having a young man that rapes girls at that school and in their neighborhood. Its just sad that to think that a school doesn’t put a child’s safety first. I remember feeling so happy to go to school when I was younger because at the time school was the safest place for me. I knew that no matter what, my teachers, my principle, the faculty would do their best to keep me as well as the rest of the school, safe and protected. When did this way of thinking stop?? At what point did they start accusing the victim??

  7. Wow this just amazes me how the school did not support the girl at all. They thought she was lying about the rape and expelled her. This makes me angry and just in disbelief how they didn’t do anything. She had to get raped for the second time and get traumatized all over again for anything to happen to the attacker. I believe the reason the school did not believe her was because she was a special-needs student. I want to think this was not the reason but it possibly can. They should have taken her seriously, instead of making her go through it all over again.

  8. Parts of this remind me of Our Guys, by Bernard Lefkowitz, a true story book (& later TV movie) about the rape of a mentally challenged teen girl. As Wikipedia said:”This event attracted nationwide attention, mainly due to the perception that the assailants had been given special treatment by the school and local authorities due to their status as local football stars.” While the victim there had no official school sanctions there, unofficial reactions of “boys will be boys” & “she often tries to come on to guys” abounded. The Court Trial was a zoo, with defendants making various contradictory statements, and the victim not wanting to get others in trouble, in the name of keeping friends.

    In Springfield, the School Officials fell down on providing basic safety for that girl. Being a special needs teen makes it even more shocking that there was not enough supervision of what went on there.

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