Parents Urge Fallin To Weigh In On Student-On-Student Abuse
The parents of an Oklahoma middle school student who allege in a federal lawsuit that school officials did nothing to stop sexual attacks against the boy during an 18-month period are urging Gov. Mary Fallin to exert her political influence to draw attention to student-on-student sexual assaults.
“(W)e’re calling on Governor Fallin to order the state Department of Education to immediately implement training programs, state-wide, to better prepare schools to prevent and address sexual assaults,” according a family statement provided to The Associated Press.
The statement also said local residents have offered to pay for counseling for the son or help pay their legal bills, but the family has declined those offers and encourages them to instead also ask the governor to take action that will help protect students from assaults.
Family attorney Nathan Richter acknowledged state law does not allow the governor to issue orders to the department. He said he isn’t aware that the family has sent an email or letter to the governor’s office.
“I think the family is calling on those in a position of power to show support,” Richter said. “I think the governor, policy-wise, can make statements and set an agenda.”
A spokesman for the governor said the office has found no correspondence requesting action.
Plaintiffs are listed as John Doe, Jane Doe ad Child Doe in the lawsuit against Washington Public Schools, superintendent A.J Brewer and principal Stuart McPherson. It alleges the assaults began with shoving in December 2015, shortly after the then-11-year-old boy and his family moved into the district about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City. It escalated into sexual assault the following February, the lawsuit alleges.
The boy’s father told the AP that he sought intervention from Brewer and McPherson, who referred to the acts as “horseplay” or “accidental touching,” until filing the lawsuit on March 26.
“(I’m) frustrated, disappointed, disgusted. It’s heartbreaking for me that my son’s had to go through this with no support at the school,” the father said. “No one (from the school) has ever called to say ‘how’s your son doing.’”
The man said his son has resisted a move to another school district.
“We’ve asked him about moving” the father said. He’s a little jaded about authority and he says ‘Dad, at least I know what to expect here. What if I go somewhere else and it’s worse?’”
The father said the assaults included one in a classroom in front of 30 to 40 other students when the teacher had left the room.
The father said there have been two other sexual assaults at the school in addition to threats to kill his son.
School attorney Andy Fugitt declined comment on the lawsuit, but said the district does adhere to its stated policy of annual training for staff that includes sexual harassment or bullying.
“That is done in conjunction with when the teachers return to work in August,” Fugitt said.
The district has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that the allegations do not show that the district acted with “deliberate indifference” and that the lawsuit fails to state a claim showing that federal Equal Protection rights were violated.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation compiled a report on the allegations and provided the documents this week to the office of District Attorney Greg Mashburn.
Mashburn said his office is reviewing the report, as is state juvenile justice officials.
The lawsuit comes after four former football players in the Tulsa suburb of Bixby were recently charged with sexually assaulting a teammate that prosecutors said wasn’t promptly reported. The four have pleaded not guilty, and their attorneys have asked that the each be certified as juveniles.
An Associated Press investigation published in 2017 examined sexual violence in school sports as part of a larger look at student-on-student sex assaults. The investigation found that team sexual assault is often mischaracterized as hazing and bullying and that the violence is so normalized that it persists for years, as players attacked one season become aggressors the next.