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Federal lawsuit alleges Lincoln Public Schools violated Title IX by handling of incident on school trip

Federal lawsuit alleges Lincoln Public Schools violated Title IX by handling of incident on school trip

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LINCOLN — Lincoln Public Schools' response to an incident involving two Scott Middle School students on a school trip to Washington, D.C., last year violated Title IX, a federal lawsuit alleges.

The alleged violations of the federal civil rights law center on an incident between two Scott Middle School students the lawsuit contends rose to a level of sexual harassment so “severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it deprived the victim access to educational opportunities provided by LPS.

Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal money.

Jim Gessford, an attorney who represents LPS, said the district was surprised by the lawsuit, because the trip is not sponsored by the district and so LPS isn't responsible for anything that happened on the trip.

The incident happened during an annual trip for eighth graders to the nation’s capital between April 3-4, 2019, in a Virginia hotel room shared by the victim, identified only as John Doe in the lawsuit, and another boy identified as B.A. and two other LPS students.

The lawsuit alleges that B.A. masturbated and ejaculated on the face of the victim, who was sleeping, and videotaped it.

The next morning, B.A. told the victim what he’d done and several adult chaperones, including LPS employees, learned of the incident that day. By the following day, the Scott principal also knew about what had happened.

Three days later, the Scott principal told the victim’s mother, who also is an unnamed plaintiff in the lawsuit, that her son was being removed from the classes he shared with B.A. and would spend a substantial part of the remainder of the spring semester doing his coursework in the administration office, the lawsuit alleges.

That’s the last conversation the mother had with school officials about the incident.

A representative of the victim’s mother called police the next day, the lawsuit says, and B.A. was eventually removed from school.

In the fall, both boys started school at Southwest High School, and LPS allowed B.A. to participate in the school’s offseason football camp. Because of that, the victim did not participate in football until B.A. transferred to another school later in the fall, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit alleges that LPS failed to promptly and equitably resolve the sexual harassment complaint between the two boys, allowed B.A. to stay in the hotel room with the victim the night after the incident, and didn’t immediately contact the victim’s mother or ask how she felt about the two sharing a hotel room the following night.

LPS also failed to have its Title IX coordinator discuss the availability of supportive measures with the victim and his mom, or tell them about the process of filing a formal Title IX complaint, the lawsuit alleges.

The inaction of LPS deprived the victim of educational opportunities by making the remainder of the Washington, D.C., trip upsetting, by removing him from the classroom and by causing him not to participate in football until B.A. transferred to another school.

The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount of damages for mental trauma, embarrassment and humiliation.

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