U.S.

Student 'Bait' Lawsuit Gets Boost From Federal Government

The 2010 incident involved a girl being raped at her middle school in a failed plot devised by school officials to catch an assaultive classmate.

Student 'Bait' Lawsuit Gets Boost From Federal Government
WAFF

The Department of Justice and the Department of Education are throwing their weight behind a 2010 case against an Alabama school board in which a 14-year-old girl with special needs said she was raped. The suit claims the girl was deliberately put in harm's way by school officials.

WAFF: "The victim says a teacher's aide used her as bait to catch another student accused of trying to have sex with classmates. The plan didn't work and the special needs student was raped in a school restroom." 

According to several reports, the Sparkman Middle School vice-principal and a teacher's aide were trying to catch the alleged perpetrator — a 16-year-old boy — in the act. CNN reports, "School policy requires allegations of student-on-student misconduct be substantiated," and that's the only way he could be punished. 

WAAY: "Attorney Eric Artrip filed a civil suit arguing Madison County School System's sexual harassment policy violated state and federal statutes. The federal claim was dismissed."

According to AL.com, the school's vice-principal initially testified they had no way of knowing whether the incident was consensual and said the girl was "responsible for herself," even though a teacher asked her to go into a restroom alone with the suspect.

The DOJ and the Department of Education filed an amicus brief this week claiming the school acted with "deliberate indifference," the district court "erred" in its judgment to dismiss the federal claim and the victim's family should be able to sue the school district. 

The Madison County Board of Education released a statement saying, in part, "The attorneys for the Board of Education and school officials are confident that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will rule in favor of the Board and the administrators." (Video via WHNT)

The case can't move forward until the federal court rules on Atrip's appeal, but he told CNN he hopes this entire incident will make it easier for young women to report sexual harassment and for schools to investigate those claims.