On Nov. 29, the Issaquah School District (ISD) submitted a formal answer in court denying all allegations of a lawsuit filed in October by a pair of former students.
The former Skyline High School students launched their lawsuit on Oct. 24 against ISD for allegedly failing to protect them from bullying and harassment after they reported a sexual assault by two star football players. The two students, sisters, are referred to as the survivor and the survivor’s sister in this story to protect their identity.
The lawsuit alleges the school did not protect the two former students, who were minors at the time, from bullying after the survivor reported a sexual assault in 2014. The district denies the allegations.
“The rampant inaccuracy of allegations in the complaint is disappointing, especially given that a significant and extended amount of communication took place with plaintiff’s mother on their behalf that directly contradicts statements made herein and the fact that this lawsuit appears to flow from off-campus events outside the control of the district,” wrote the district’s defense attorney Charles Leitch of Patterson Buchanan Fobes & Leitch.
In October 2014, the survivor was sexually assaulted off campus by her boyfriend and his friend. The assailants, two football players, later pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation.
According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the school failed to investigate because the district allegedly didn’t want to risk losing its top players and sacrifice the chances of winning another state championship.
Since the court removal of the assailants, the survivor claims students and staff bullied and harassed her for making the players transfer to a different school. The complaint alleges the district also refused to investigate the abuse she and her sister endured at the school, but instead became “proactive for the football players.”
“In the Answer, the Issaquah School District denies the allegations and affirmatively states that its staff acted quickly and with integrity while following all federal and state laws as well as district procedures. According to the school district’s answer to the complaint, the district and its administrators provided support for (the survivor) and responded to reported behavior from other students,” ISD wrote in a press release.
The “district followed court-issued protective orders against both of (the survivor’s) assailants and took preemptive action to keep the assailants from Skyline High School functions,” the district’s answer said.
ISD said it did not have the authority to remove the assailants from the school as the incident occurred off campus and the conduct was only alleged at the time. ISD deferred any investigation into the off-campus allegations in favor of the police investigation and criminal proceedings.
As for the bullying and harassment that ensued following the removal of the assailants, ISD said it developed a support plan for the survivor and the survivor’s sister while the allegations were pending. Claimed actions included permitting the survivor to park on campus in a visitor spot rather than a spot across the street in order to increase supervision, and responding to negative social media posts by other students — the district warned other students against further posts and threatened discipline, yet the district noted it did not have jurisdiction as the posting occurred outside of school. ISD also claimed the support plan for the sisters included the two students to “have check-ins with the school counselors and staff shadows or escorts between their classes throughout the weekday.”
In the ISD answer to the complaint, it denies all allegations of failing to protect the two students and declares the district followed any and all legal procedures.
Yvonne Kinoshita Ward, the plaintiffs’ attorney, disagreed with the ISD answer to the complaint, noting the district’s contradictions regarding authority and an alleged lack of follow through for a support plan.
“There was no written plan of support for (the survivor) and (the survivor’s sister), and they did not receive any support of what they said,” she said. “The (administration) was only interested if they had hard evidence…and what good does it do to ‘check in’ with a counselor? They weren’t going to do anything.”
The Reporter attempted to contact the attorneys representing ISD but did not receive a response by press deadline.