Lawsuit filed against Issaquah School District

This is a developing story and the Reporter will add to it as more information becomes available.

A pair of former students are suing the Issaquah School District for not protecting them from bullying after they reported a sexual assault by two star football players.

In October of 2014, the sexual assault survivor was dating one of the school’s “star” football players during her junior year. One day, the survivor went to her boyfriend’s house. She didn’t know another football player would be there. She said her boyfriend helped his friend hold her down and sexually assault her.

The survivor reported the rape within days of its occurrence. The football players later pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and were court ordered to stay away from Skyline High School.

According to the survivor in a lawsuit filed last week against the Issaquah School District, the school failed to investigate her claims because they allegedly didn’t want to risk losing their top players and sacrifice their 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 lawsuit alleges the district also refused to investigate the abuse the survivor and her sister endured at the school, but instead became “proactive for the football players.”

“After the court intervened and ordered the assailants out of Skyline High School, the district placed them in one of their other schools and allowed them to pursue their sports,” the lawsuit said. “Defendant Principal Donna Hood directed her staff to hide the court order from other personnel and even other schools, and authorized letters of recommendation for the assailants.”

The survivor and her younger sister say they were incessantly bullied and harassed at school, at school events, and in the community by football players and students. Abuse included the girls’ home vandalized with eggs, feces, paintballs and, ultimately, a firebomb. The abuse spread to social media as well when a football coach publicly endorsed another student’s tweet for the girls to transfer from the school. The family endured the abuse, determined not to let it drive them away, but they had to flee and live in an undisclosed location.

The survivor graduated from Skyline in 2016. The assailants and students allegedly turned their attention to the survivor’s younger sister, who was a cheerleader. The lawsuit claims one of the survivor’s assailants harassed the sister during football games while she was cheering. She claims the harassment went unacknowledged by the school and she ultimately transferred to another school.

Now, four years after the initial sexual assault, the sisters are suing the district for failing to protect them as minors and failing to follow state law on bullying.

In a prepared statement, the school district said “… we are unable to offer any further remarks on the lawsuit or the specific allegations contained in the lawsuit at this particular time,” and added that the district “generally denies any allegations of legal wrongdoing.”

According to the sisters’ attorney, Yvonne Kinoshita Ward, the sisters became aware that similar abuse was happening to other girls and that the district was continuing its negligence.

“The big sister decided that since she’s now out of the school, that she was unable to be hurt [by the school] anymore, she wanted to show them that they can be held accountable,” Ward said.

Ward said the school practiced maintaining a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation of students who oppose violence and abuse.

“Why do you think the students would feel free to do this? Because they knew they could,” she said.

For the sisters, Ward said they want “the light of day to be shown on what this school is doing” and see the topics of consent and sexual assault be taught throughout the district.

“Sexual assault is not something that you cover up,” Ward said. “They’re basically saying, ‘We’re shedding a light on this, you can come forward, it may be hard but it’s worth it.’”

A trial date has been scheduled for Oct. 21, 2019.

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