The US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights is investigating Seattle Public Schools for the system and departed superintendent Joe Banda’s response to the rape of a Garfield High sophomore reported during a school trip on the Olympic Peninsula in 2012. An Al Jazeera report on Title IX failures at high schools and colleges has brought the attack and its tragic consequences to light:
As the months rolled by, the alleged perpetrator continued attending Garfield as usual, while claiming on Facebook that he had been framed. With rumors swirling, Emily never returned to Garfield. Instead, the Millers say their daughter’s mental health deteriorated, landing her in a residential treatment facility and pushing them more than $50,000 in debt.
The Millers had no idea about Title IX, which prohibits educational institutions receiving federal funding — high schools included — from sex discrimination, with particular prescriptions for addressing sexual assault. An “America Tonight” analysis of extensive school records and email exchanges about the case suggest administrators at Seattle Public Schools didn’t either.
A copy of the federal complaint filed this spring by the victim’s parents is posted to the Stop Sexual Assault in High School Facebook page. Among the complaint’s documentation is a criticism of then-superintendent Banda’s actions to investigate the assault:
On January 15, 2014, we wrote to the District asking why it had not responded to the information we supplied on October 18, 2013. The Superintendent replied to our March 18, 2013 complaint on January 23, 2014 informing us that the District had determined that there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude our family member “was the victim of harassment.”
Banda has since left Seattle to head Sacramento’s school district.
The alleged attacker never faced charges in the case. Al Jazeera reports that the victim continues to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. The report also notes that out of the district’s more than 50,000 students, 47 were victims of a sexual offense in the 2013-14 school year.
The Save Seattle Schools blog reports that the Seattle district, faced with mounting national criticism over the case, is now responding to inquiries on the matter with this form email:
Thank you for contacting the School Board Office. Please be assured that we take the issue of sexual assault seriously and are continuing to work with all parties involved — including state and federal agencies and the family — to address the concerns that have been raised and ensure that the appropriate legal process is followed. The family has filed complaints with several oversight agencies, and we trust that resolution of those actions will be fair and equitable.