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Seattle school district under fire for handling of Garfield High student’s 2012 rape investigation

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. 

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mrs miller
9 years ago

Many thanks for sharing this important story with Seattle residents and beyond. We need activists who want to help students be safe in a variety of ways. Please contact us with your ideas and talents. Imagine students earning community service hours educating their peers and the community about the safety issues in schools and the appropriate responses. . . . the possibilities are endless and the need is tremendous.

[email protected]

mrs. miller
9 years ago

To those concerned about sexual assault in public schools:

Citizens are gathering to support the movement to Stop Sexual Assault in High School. A peaceful demonstration is to occur, with your help, at the Seattle School Board meeting on August 20th, 4:40. Parking is available

It is possible that persons supporting the petition to remove Garfield Principal Howard for his role in fostering sexual violence (that led to the US Dept of Education, Office for Civil Rights, opened in response to the Garfield High School rape) may be present. (see petition link below)

We’re told that:

“The meeting starts at 4:15 with the consent agenda and any presentations related to superintendent comments. Testimony starts at 5pm. If you have a big enough group and think media cameras will be there, then people can come at 4:40 and wait outside the front. If media doesn’t come, someone can still take video/photos that you can put on your page and send to media.”

Please come at 4:40 and take pictures as the media turnout is still unknown. Please email your pictures to this email address!

We need the School Board to see new people are outraged by the events that led to the opening of a Federal investigation.
PLEASE FORWARD this email to individuals who support this cause.


Suggestions for signs (approx. 18″ x 24″) which you can hold or attach to a stick:

Garfield Rape: No one accountable (Everyone Accountable is the district’s motto)

Garfield rape gets Federal Investigation

Garfield rape was entirely preventable

Teachers didn’t read/enforce chaperoning rules

Unscreened chaperone slept with earplugs

District fosters sexual violence

School Board says no sex harassment occurred

District failed to address sex harassment under Title IX

Sex assault reported: No excuse not implementing Title IX

District : “Sex on field trips can occur when chaperones
appropriately performing duties”

“Sex on field trips doesn’t mean chaperones failed”

Why Have Chaperones if they don’t read/enforce the rules?

Principal privileged assailant’s tale of
consensual sex

District values athlete but devalues female victim

District’s biased investigations conducted by insider

District response to rape outrageous, self-serving

This rape could be anyone’s nightmare

Please feel free to forward this and have people email me.

District released victim’s address to media!
Violated FERPA

Stop Sexual Assault in High School seeks to help families nationwide advocate for a student’s rights after sexual assault. We will also be addressing prevention through trainings. Stop Sexual Assault in High School recently came into being after our family member was raped on a Garfield High School field trip. Our vision is to spare others the devastation that ensued when the Seattle School District failed to keep students safe and failed to extend any of her federally mandated Title IX rights. The District is now under federal investigation for violation of Title IX. We’re only one month old but an unrelenting revolution is underway with the help of dedicated individuals, organizations, and media. Please join us!

Please visit our Facebook page including “Our Family’s Story,” our complaint opened by the US Dept. of Education, Office for Civil Rights, and other posts. Email us with your suggestions and let us know how you can be of service.

Facebook Page (peak following of 13,000+following and Al-Jazeera coverage)

Stop Sexual Assault in High School

National Media: in-depth investigative coverage


Link to complaint against teachers, principal, superintendent, legal department, 504 coordinator and others. Read first hand descriptions of what has transpired and the District’s own documents.

Link to formal complaints to the District/OSPI and their response (aimed at mitigating liability)

Petition to remove Garfield principal by third generation Garfield alum. Comments by other victims assaulted in Seattle Schools

Local Blogs

Community Education Forum

A Tragic Story – 7/22
Don’t Tell Us – Show Us – 7/24
The Volume is Going Up on the Garfield Rape Case – 7/25
Seattle School Board Speaks Out on Garfield Field Trip Incident – 7/26
Something Horrible Under Every Rock – 7/27
Garfield Field Trip Assault: Continuing Questions – 7/28
Where’s the Problem? – 7/28

Seattle Times has a few online reader comments imbedded in other stories but no coverage: not even reporting that the Federal Government opened an investigation of the Seattle School District. They have been informed in detail about this matter for over a year.

Short References to Garfield Rape and Tweeted by: link to story

Please let us know if you do not wish to receive further information.

Thank you,

Family members of the Victim
now residing out of WA owing to the assault


[…] week, interim superintendent Larry Nyland says his system is making changes and learning from the revelations that emerged this summer about the district’s response to a reported 2012 sexual assault during a Garfield High School […]