This Could Be Any Family’s Tragedy
Our entire family life was devastated when our daughter was sexually assaulted by a classmate on a multi-day school field trip. The Seattle Public School District’s failure to recognize her federally mandated Title IX rights guaranteeing an equal education free of sexual harassment, to acknowledge her report of sexual assault as required, to promptly and equitably investigate, to prevent retaliation, and to treat her with basic human dignity has been life-scarring beyond description. Our efforts to hold those responsible were met with avoidance, denial, misinformation, falsification, and violations at every juncture. The District’s motto “Everyone Accountable” became a painful and ironic reminder of the treatment our family received. We learned that “Liability before Accountability,” is a far more accurate motto.
The inequitable way in which the District responded to the rape of our daughter caused her to feel utterly devalued as a human being. Not only was she deceived by a classmate who assaulted her in the presence of other students, she was also betrayed by teachers and chaperones who failed to protect female students on the overnight trip. She was further betrayed by her school, which failed to implement the required steps that would have allowed her to continue her education, free of retaliation, after the assault. Instead, she was treated like a second-class citizen while a male athlete perpetrator, who had previously been disciplined for sexual misconduct, was allowed to continue his education as a valued member of the school community. This was not the first instance (or the last) that the school failed to provide a safe environment for girls on field trips.
To avoid both liability and accountability, the District disregarded its Title IX obligations and resorted to gender-based discrimination to shut down the complaint of sexual assault. By discounting the report of rape from the female victim, by adopting an inappropriate advocacy role for the perpetrator, and by repeatedly denying the negligence that put female students at risk of sexual assault, the Seattle School District fostered a culture of sexual violence. Because of this we filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which was opened in June, 2014.
After being assaulted on the school-sponsored ecology trip, our daughter reported the assault, was taken to the nearest hospital where she voluntarily endured a rape exam to identify the assailant. The Seattle School District was aware of the assault the same day but failed to conduct a prompt, thorough, and independent investigation as stipulated by the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The District also failed to involve its Title IX coordinator as required. Additionally, the District did not protect our daughter from retaliation or inform her of any sanctions meted out against the assailant so she could return to school. Because the District failed to protect her from a hostile environment, she was unable to return to school and the enriching life she had built there. The loss of her school community, the discrimination and devaluation she faced from the school after reporting the assault, along with disabling PTSD from the rape, were devastating.
On the field trip, improper and inadequate supervision created an uncontrolled, unsafe, and hostile environment that permitted sexual violence to occur. Chaperones did not prevent girls and boys from co-mingling unsupervised in each other’s cabins before and after curfew in violation of district and camp policy. The teachers who were supposed to be in charge chose to sleep in distant cabins with their young children and were therefore unable to monitor the students for whom they were responsible. Instead, they delegated their own night-time responsibilities to two college students ill-equipped to chaperone. The sole male chaperone slept with earplugs, and the female chaperones admitted losing control of the students on the first night, but made no plan for the second night when our daughter was raped. Although this was their third trip to the camp, teachers admitted that they had not even read the chaperone policies they were required to enforce. For three years the principal authorized this trip without identifying and screening chaperones and participants, among other violations. He authorized the 2012 trip without a single male chaperone. (Interestingly, after the assault, the principal’s written talking points for the media falsely claimed that two parent chaperones were present in each cabin.)
The assailant had previously been “emergency excluded” as a danger to himself and/or others from a District middle school for having sexual intercourse with a peer on school grounds during lunch period, which may have been another incident of sexual harassment perpetrated by the assailant. The District was aware, or should have been aware, that the perpetrator presented a risk of sexual harassment in an under-supervised setting, such as occurred on the field trip. School personnel ignored this risk on the trip—and they later ignored the assailant’s prior offense when the District discounted our daughter’s reported rape.
In the months following the sexual assault, our daughter was subjected to retaliation from her peers, who accused her of lying about being raped and framing the perpetrator. These reports were delivered personally and over the Internet. This created a hostile environment under which she did not want to return to school. The District treated the reported sexual assault with deliberate indifference, writing us that there was no need for the District to take action to remedy the hostile environment after the assault because our family member was not attending school, even though it was the hostile environment and fear of retaliation that prevented her from returning to the school in the first place. This was only one of the ways in which the District tried to justify its failure to follow federal Title IX laws to protect our children and provide an equal educational free of sexual harassment.
On March 18, 2013, we escalated our complaint to then District Superintendent, Jose Banda, requesting an explanation of why the District still had not investigated the circumstances that allowed our daughter to be sexually assaulted. It was not until May, 2013, six months after the assault, that the District reluctantly decided at our insistence to conduct its own independent investigation. This was in violation of OCR directives, which state that schools should not wait for a parent complaint before launching their own investigation. Not only was the quality of the District’s investigation greatly undermined as a result of this delay, our daughter’s educational opportunities were grossly compromised because the District failed to conduct a prompt and equitable investigation, failed to inform her that the assailant had been emergency excluded, failed to address retaliation, as required by OCR directives, so she could have returned to school. Moreover, the District never addressed our questions about the negligence that permitted an assault. The investigator refused our offer to participate when other parents were allowed to. Moreover, the District had months to interview our daughter before she entered treatment for sexual assault trauma in another state but blamed us for hindering its investigation.
The District’s investigator wrote a draft report dated June 28, 2013. He requested us to contribute additional information, which we did, including our daughter’s written account of events authenticated by her therapist. We also submitted law enforcement reports, verification of her Washington State crime victim’s status, information concerning chaperone negligence from our public records search, screenshots demonstrating retaliation, and objective medical evidence corroborating our daughter’s treatment for sexual assault and PTSD as a result of the assault. Our response also included discussion of the investigation’s numerous errors and omissions. For example, the investigation report omitted basic information that cast the District in a negative light, such as how the teachers slept in a distant location unable to see or hear their students, that a mother reported to the school that her daughter witnessed a rape, as shown in an internal email we discovered, that the chaperones had not passed the required background check, among numerous omissions and errors we detailed in our response. In a word, the District’s frequently hired investigator clearly failed to perform an objective, even-handed investigation. The investigation was fashioned to exonerate the District from any wrongdoing.
The investigator did not have an opportunity to incorporate the objective information we supplied into his final report as promised because the District terminated its own investigation. Even though the District had objective information from the hospital, doctors, and therapists who treated our daughter for sexual assault, even though they had the assailant’s own testimony to the National Parks Service investigators that our daughter told him to stop sexual touching multiple times (thereby meeting the definition of rape), even though the Seattle School District granted a school transfer with rape on the field trip as the basis, the superintendent informed us that there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude our family member “was the victim of harassment.”
It took the Seattle School District 14 months after the assault to come to this disingenuous conclusion, one that was devised to excuse the District’s failure to implement mandatory Title IX statutes and other laws. Meanwhile, our daughter’s high school educational opportunity was destroyed. The District’s failure to promptly and equitably respond to the report of sexual assault created a nightmare that would require volumes to recount.
On February 14, 2014, we appealed the Superintendent’s decision to the District Board of Directors. In our appeal, we noted that the District had not addressed our complaint regarding: 1) the improper and inadequate adult supervision on the field trip that created an unsafe environment in which sexual assault could and did occur, and 2) noncompliance with OCR Title IX directives in response to a report of sexual violence. We also noted that the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) stated that the District failed to follow the complaint pathway requirements by responding 10 months, not 30 days, after the March 2013 complaint, and failed to advise of us our right to appeal to the School Board. We documented the ways in which the District’s legal department misinformed the School Board. One School Board member wrote to OSPI seeking information about Title IX only AFTER she voted to uphold the District’s decision. The Legal Department denied our request to record the hearing.
In its memoranda to the School Board, the District devalued, discounted, and ignored objective information we supplied demonstrating that our family member did not welcome the sexual conduct of the assailant and was immediately thereafter treated by medical professionals for sexual assault and the ensuing PTSD. The District possessed both the account provided by our family member and the perpetrator’s own account that he gave to the National Park Service investigators after the assault, both of which state that our daughter clearly told the perpetrator to stop the sexual conduct multiple times. By telling the perpetrator to stop more than once, our daughter made it clear that his conduct was unwelcome, as defined by Washington State law and OCR. His behavior was more than unwelcomed—it constituted a brutal sexual assault.
The District ignored this evidence and instead adopted an advocacy role for the perpetrator, claiming that although our family member told to him to stop touching her, the male student “believed he then persuaded her to allow him to continue.” The District apparently believes that it can simply accept that the male student “persuaded” his victim to consent when he actually overpowered her. The District accepts the assailant’s story as credible at face value, despite his prior discipline record of sexual misconduct (assault?) at school. For these and other reasons, including its failure to consider a report from a mother who said her daughter witnessed rape, the District clearly discounts the testimony of females and fosters a culture of sexual violence and discrimination against the female victim of sexual assault.
The District has evidence that the sexual behavior by the perpetrator was unwelcome by our family member. But because the District has repeatedly voiced to us its concern about its potential liability for the assault, its adjudication process was not impartial, as evidenced by the District ignoring our inquiries, attempting to shut down the report of sexual assault, failing to commence an independent investigation in a timely manner, ignoring objective medical and forensic evidence that we provided, advocating for the perpetrator, and terminating its own investigation without allowing the investigator to incorporate the documentation we provided in a final report.
To excuse its negligence, the district’s General Counsel twice wrote that sexual intercourse may occur on field trips when chaperones are appropriately performing their duties. If this is the case, why have chaperones? We believe district families deserve to know of this dangerous ad hoc, impromptu policy that especially places female students at risk. We brought our concerns before the Superintendent and School Board multiple times, but neither would repudiate this shocking statement.
The Motivation to Form Stop Sexual Assault in Schools
After our daughter was raped by a classmate on a multi-day science trip, after we experienced the horrors of sexual assault and its impact upon her education, we were compelled to warn and inform others of the devastation that results when students are assaulted and school districts fail to implement the victim’s federally mandated civil rights.
Although sexual assault in colleges and Title IX are receiving attention in the media, K-12 families everywhere must understand the role of Title IX, particularly as it relates to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender discrimination. A victim’s report of persistent sexual harassment/assault must trigger a Title IX investigation: it’s not optional and it must occur regardless of a criminal investigation or criminal findings. Instead, the Seattle School District attempted to shut down our complaint.
Instead of the Title IX officer reaching out to us, as required, we were forced to deal with the nightmare of sexual assault and the ensuing chaos. After months of seeking accountability, we turned to the OSPI in Olympia, WA, who informed us of the federal Title IX procedures that must be implemented when sexual harassment and assault is reported.
Students and families must be educated about sexual harassment, sex assault, and Title IX. Victims will thus be better prepared to respond to sexual harassment and assault if it occurs, whether in high school or college. School administrators also require education about Title IX and sexual violence, so that they can proactively institute policies and procedures for handling sexual assault complaints and Title IX compliance.
The tragedy that befell our family member should serve as an important lesson to those who seek to combat sexual assault before college. To spare others across the nation the life-scarring trauma and derailment of education that our family member experienced, we ask your support in whatever way you can help.
Father’s Personal Account Read to Seattle School Board February 25, 2014
I can’t forget that Wednesday morning when I answered the phone and learned that our daughter had been raped. I was sick to my stomach. When I called her she sounded so dazed and traumatized that I could hardly believe it was the same child who called me the night before, all excited about watching the November election returns.
Not only have we been emotionally scarred as a family, we’ve endured endless frustration in holding the district accountable. Are there any parents who would not want an answer as to why their child was allowed to be sexually assaulted on a school field trip? Like the other ecology class parents, we entrusted the care of our child to the adults on this trip. They utterly betrayed our trust us by failing to perform their responsibilities, and yet no one has held them accountable.
I’m going to be perfectly frank. For the district, it’s never been about holding anyone accountable. It’s always been about fear of potential liability from day one. The school district has just wanted this event to go away. I was expecting someone from the district would call me and say, “Something has gone terribly wrong here. We want to understand what happened and find out who’s responsible. We want to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.” Did anyone in the district tell us this? Never. Whenever I called or emailed someone to get answers, no one got back to me.
Not only did we have to tend to a traumatized child, but also try to piece back together her high school education. We were constantly stymied by staff who gave us contradictory and confusing information and who obviously were unable and unaware of how to handle this situation.
This was a complete embarrassment for the district. Not only was there irresponsible adult supervision on the field trip, but in the aftermath of the rape, school administrators were completely unaware of their responsibilities for handling reports of sexual assaults.
The district was totally ignorant of its responsibilities under Title IX. Those rules are there to protect all children who are victims of sexual harassment/violence. The school is responsible for carrying out its own investigation promptly and equitably, and not rely on law enforcement investigations, which might take weeks or months while the child’s education is derailed. They rationalize their determination based on whether the US Attorney prosecuted a criminal case, even though we repeatedly quoted the US Dept. of Education directives stating that criminal prosecution is irrelevant in determinations of sexual harassment and violence.
Why is it that the victim’s family has to prod the district into meeting its responsibilities? Were the district truly interested in pursuing a prompt investigation, it could have asked to interview our daughter in the weeks and months immediately following the assault. The district had no clue about its obligations to conduct a prompt inquiry. Yet it blames us for not being able to interview our daughter while she was undergoing residential treatment.
Fear of liability pervades everything. It forces the district’s legal department to act as the perpetrator’s defense team. They want you to hear that our daughter changed her account. Their memorandum doesn’t tell you that the perpetrator changed his story. Is that really an equitable evaluation? They say that an eyewitness (a longtime friend of the assailant) thought our daughter was enjoying sex with the male student. They don’t tell you that the district’s own investigation found contradictions in his and the assailant’s accounts of being in the room at the time. They don’t tell you that he could not correctly describe her appearance to investigators.
They conclude that our daughter welcomed the sexual touching at the time, even though the medical records show otherwise, and their own investigator was skeptical that she welcomed anal sex. They expect you and us to believe that some unknown stressor traumatized our daughter that night even though all of the medical professionals and therapists who treated her found her traumatized from a sexual assault and no other reason. The legal team expects you to agree that it’s up to the assailant to decide whether “stop” means “stop”. Do you think district parents believe this as well?
I wonder if the district actually believes this itself, but they make this argument because fear of potential liability trumps accountability. But accountability matters to us and to district parents. Why? Why even have chaperones on field trips if they don’t perform their duties? Don’t you think this matters to parents? Why have field trip policies and procedures in the first place if no one reads them or abides by them? It matters to parents who entrust their children to the care of adults who organize and manage field trips. Why have federal guidelines for how schools should respond to sexual harassment and sexual violence when districts can ignore them at will? It matters to parents because those directives are in place to protect all students from sexual harassment and violence. Why have a grievance procedure that says complaints are answered within thirty days if the district can get around to responding almost a year later? It matters to us because we have had to spend innumerable hours trying to get answers from people who just want us to go away.
We ask the school board to look past the school district’s legal tactics, language parsing, and dubious assumptions about the sexual assault—all of which are motivated by its fear of liability—to the interests of the community it serves. We don’t want other families to go through what we have. That’s why we have insisted on a full explanation of why our daughter was assaulted on the field trip, why the chaperoning and adult supervision was so poor that it created an uncontrolled and unsafe environment for our daughter and the other students, and why the district did not extend Title IX rights to our daughter in the aftermath of the assault.
Mother’s Statement read to Seattle School Board February 25, 2014
Few people understand insidious nature of rape. It’s imperative that the School Board and District turn its attention from the misplaced emphasis on mitigating liability to putting a human face on the victim and her family. It’s time for each of you to put yourself in our place and begin to grasp the indescribable devastation that visited our family because the district allowed unscreened, unauthorized chaperones, ignorant of district and camp protocols, to accompany our children, so teachers could enjoy a family vacation far out of sight.
Our family was devastated because chaperones lost control of the students the first night of the field trip and failed to make a plan for the second night, when our daughter was raped. According to the district’s own investigation, an unauthorized college student “chaperone” plugged his ears, announced he was going to bed, and students in his charge promptly left their cabins. As you know, boys and girls entered each others’ cabins unsupervised. Our daughter went to hear the problems of a forlorn classmate, not to have sex. How could our daughter imagine that a classmate would assault her in a room full of peers? It’s time for the district to cease engaging in disingenuous tactics and acknowledge the life-scarring agony that resulted from its negligence. Indeed no one from the school district, with the exception of two teachers, has even acknowledged or apologized for the nightmare that ensued from this trip.
I’m not here to argue whether or not our daughter was raped and sodomized. We know she was and so do the medical providers who treated her. You should know that the assailant himself admitted to the NPS investigator that our daughter told him to stop touching her at least three times before he raped her. By his own admission, he met both the district’s code of sexual assault E-215 and the definition of rape in WA State. Turning a blind eye on this, the school district finds it more convenient to believe that the rapist persuaded her to accept sex contrary to the medical evidence that describes the condition of her dry, unresponsive body, the condition of her cervix, and the pain she endured.
Since when does a rapist get to tell you he persuaded the victim to have sex? Even the district’s investigator was incredulous that our daughter would accept 10 minutes of sodomy after the assailant admitted none of his 13 previous sexual partners permitted this activity. You should also know that among his many lies, the assailant claimed he never ejaculated, that they were only fooling around, in direct contradiction to forensic evidence. All of this squares with the assailant’s advice on Facebook that one should dupe girls and “f–k them like animals.”
You should also know that the assailant had been emergency excluded in middle school for having sex on school property during the school day. It remains to be seen whether that was consensual. You also know that students reported that he had a crush on our daughter but she had no romantic interest in him, as others corroborated. It is inconceivable to us that anyone in the district can enjoy a clear conscience and a good night’s sleep knowing that such deplorable chaperoning permitted the devastation our family experiences to this day.
Those who wish to know how this trauma affected her should hear a poem she wrote. It is accompanied by a self-photo of her tearful face, lips sewn together (using paint). This photo should be compared to one of her glowing face after playing with the Seattle Symphony. Side by side, these photos speak volumes. Here is the poem:
Reflections on Rape
He defiled me. Tearing into my flesh like a beast would its prey. The light within, the pureness inside had been extinguished that night. The holy place, now corrupted, lay in ruins. Precious auras shattered as angels wept, leaving my broken soul to lie still, crumbling into the darkness. Yet no one knew. No one really *could* know. My lips were sewn shut with the same needle that had sewn countless others’ lips. . . .
— by the victim raped on the Seattle Public School District field trip to NatureBridge camp
Imagine watching your child deteriorate day after day, as full blown PTSD overtakes his or her life. Coming home after the rape, she vomited up the megadoses of antibiotics she was given. More doses had to be taken. Providing hydration and nourishment remained a constant struggle over the months after the assault. Like every rape victim, she wanted the nightmare to just go away. She longed to go back to school, to play in her elite musical ensemble, and see her friends. Yet she was terrified of seeing the assailant there and the comments she might receive. When we asked the principal the day after the rape about our daughter’s safe return to school, he refused to tell us what the district finally admitted months later–that the assailant had been emergency excluded as a danger to himself and others. After it was necessary to escalate our complaint, OSPI informed us that the district was required by Title IX to inform our daughter of the sanctions meted out against the assailant so she could enjoy an education free of harassment and retaliation. It was more convenient for the principal to choose the popular football player’s story rather than giving equal consideration to our daughter’s need for protection. We parents were horrified by the principal’s lack of integrity that shattered any hope of a working relationship. Instead of being able to return to school with her head held high, our daughter became the butt of rumors that the assailant circulated to absolve himself of raping her. Our daughter’s entire world—academic, social, musical, and interior– fell apart.
Over the months, our daughter was terrified of falling asleep owing to nightmares. She kept herself up writing poetry, posting her poems and art anonymously on online, and drawing until she eventually fell asleep at dawn. We let her sleep until 2 or 3 o’clock so that she might be able to do some homework and prepare for her tutor whom she liked seeing. But she struggled to concentrate owing to the PTSD and would spend hours staring at her computer, unable to produce more than a few sentences on an assignment. Our honors and AP student was horrified that she couldn’t think or function. She was becoming a stranger to the successful and creative person she knew, and this change in self-perception threw her into chaos.
During this time, I tried to keep a recovery journal for the mental health professionals who treated her.
Nov 28th: Slept until 2 when I woke her. “I’m just exhausted. I wake up exhausted panting and sweating from dreaming but I don’t remember. I set my alarm for 10; I wanted to get an earlier start. I woke up exhausted—nope this isn’t happening.”
Dec 18: She has dreams of someone biting her and sucking her blood.
Dec 25: Went to bed at 12:30 after seeing friends for Xmas eve. Woke at 2:30 screaming with nightmares. Can’t get up to do homework. “I’m exhausted.”
Jan. 8: Last week she harmed herself because of the rape. She can’t sustain a friendship with her boyfriend because she can’t make any promises. Her future is completely unknown. She can’t focus on her homework at all, she says she spent half the day staring at the same paragraph. She is unmotivated. She feels given over to impulses because the results of her actions don’t matter. She is numb, by her own admission.
Jan 10: She had a nightmare that someone punched her in the face and she tasted the blood in her mouth. She washed out her mouth and couldn’t get back to sleep.
She says her all important, lifelong relationship with Nature has been ruined by this rape while at a nature camp.
Each day we did a mood check on a scale of 1-10. Her moods ranged from numb (7), to suicidal ideation (9.5). Suicide is a 10.
Her days were spent languishing in bed with Mom and Dad urging her to get up. Visits from friends after school brought her the disturbing news about the assailant’s retaliatory accusations that only caused her further despair. Although Title IX required the school to protect her from such retaliation, no one forbade the assailant from doing so. We have sent you his posts on Facebook and chats with Garfield students describing the rumor mill that caused her further agony.
Consider that prior to the assault, she so looked forward to going to school that she got herself there on the bus without a single tardy, without parental coaxing. She met her boyfriend several times a week outside her first period ecology class that she shared with the assailant. She absolutely loved playing an elite musical ensemble. She was one of a few sophomores who enjoyed that privilege and looked forward to the 2013 winter tour. Just a short time before the assault she performed alongside a professional ensemble. She also derived so much satisfaction playing with the rock ensemble that she planned to form a band playing an electric instrument. After the rape, her instrument remained silent. I borrowed some electronic gear she’d wanted she was unmotivated to take advantage of it. Her conductor arranged for her to play in a youth ensemble but she couldn’t sustain enough concentration to practice for rehearsals. How would you parents feel if you’d give your child 11 years of music lessons to have it all shattered because she was raped and suffered from full blown PTSD?
After the rape, her life centered around medical appointments for STDs, trauma therapy, and meetings with her sexual assault and legal advocates. It was all too much for her. Like any trauma victim, she just wanted it all go away. She discontinued therapy because each session proved too overwhelming as her therapist at Harborview Sexual Assault Center wrote in the medical records.
In early January, she voluntarily met with the FBI to complete her interview. Unlike many rape victims, She had the strength to immediately disclose that she was raped, to go to the hospital, where she endured a rape kit to identify her assailant. At the same time, she was in shock and terrified. What 15 year-old wouldn’t be after being raped and sodomized? In a state of shock after being raped, what should she do? What should she say? However, she voluntarily came forward and gave a more complete account, knowing that she could speak freely, without the fear of seeing the assailant at school as she had decided she could not return. Sadly, her courage was followed by a horrendous relapse as she relieved the events of the assault in a two-hour interview.
We parents struggled to keep her safe. She concluded that if a classmate could treat her like a piece of meat, that she was worthless. As she watched her once successful self ebb away, to be replaced by a new persona ridden with nightmares, flashbacks, and agony, she began acting impulsively. We consulted King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, who informed us that these are some of the ways victims express the agony of their trauma. Unable to keep her safe, she attended a behavioral hospital where we were obliged to travel twice a day for three weeks until we could find a suitable solution. We parents were expending all our energy trying to help her day and night. Imagine pulling multiple all-nighters at the age of 60 and trying to hold down jobs. All this while seeing your child deteriorate day after day, week after week, month after month,
During this time, her education was mangled by the district’s failures to clearly lay out her options. We struggled to gain accurate information and only through our own efforts did we find out about Home Hospital few days before she would have been dropped from the district. But as her English teacher/home tutor noted in an email, her declining condition made it impossible for her to learn. So we hired an education expert who hand-picked a facility with a school for her in Utah. There, the extent of her trauma was so great that she could not hear the word “ecology” or the name of the assailant without suffering a relapse. That is why her therapists instructed us that she was not to undergo interviews about the assault. To finance five months there we depleted 10 years of retirement savings. This is money that I will not be able to earn again.
Owing to the steep cost, we had to remove her from treatment. In addition, she needed to get her education back on track. Following the advice of the mental health professionals, we attempted to give her a new start in another state. Although our educational consultant recommended small private schools we could not afford them. So we searched long and hard for a highly rated public school, and uprooted ourselves from Seattle where we had lived for over 35 years. She loved the idea of making a clean start and eagerly looked forward to studying engineering and forensics in public school and going rock climbing in the sunshine. The reality, however, was another thing. Shortly after school started she experienced a full-blown relapse. Nightmares ensued. Reliving the events of the assault and its aftermath, she took an overdose, and was transferred to a mental health hospital. There are no words to express the chaos, agony, despair and trauma that followed. It is far from over.
Had she not been assaulted, she’d been on track to fulfill her ambition to enter community college, applying to a summer engineering program, and looking at colleges. Will she even obtain a GED diploma or have an emotionally healthy and productive life? The inquisitive, life-embracing daughter we once knew is no longer. Sexual assault dealt her a mortal blow as it did to our family life. Our hearts bleed for her and they bleed for the annihilation of our family life.
In conclusion, we never expected to undertake the task of holding the Seattle School District accountable for sexual assault. In our 60s, when parents are enjoying the fruits of their efforts, we have lost our child to a life-scarring debilitating trauma. Although we might prefer to spend our time otherwise, it remains our responsibility to make certain no other family—whether in Seattle or nationally—endures that agony that has visited ours. We have nothing to gain except the satisfaction that we performed our civic duty and spared others from the agony that ensues when the district fails to provide for the safety of our children. We will make every effort to inform others of the life-shattering consequences of sexual harassment and assault. This is a story that every parent nationwide needs to hear and one that we intend to make widely known until every school district treats all students equally, as required by Title IX.