Fairfax County Public School District Fails Students in Shameful Sex Abuse Cover-Up Case

Press Release from Stop Sexual Assault in Schools, April 24, 2024

Fairfax County Public School District Fails Students in Shameful Sex Abuse Cover-Up Case

Seattle, April 24, 2024 —Today a federal jury found against a former middle-school student who filed a Title IX lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). This disappointing verdict underscores the substantial institutional and legal barriers that survivors continue to face in K-12 schools nationally when they attempt to hold schools accountable for Title IX compliance.

The national nonprofit Stop Sexual Assault in Schools (SSAIS) was founded in 2015 precisely because we saw how K-12 school districts mishandle sexual harassment complaints, to the lasting harm of student and family survivors. Today’s decision further discourages students and families from reporting sexual harassment and assault by peers and school staff while offering schools more disincentives to improve their Title IX processes.

“Children should never have to sue to be believed,” says Karen Truszkowski, a Title IX lawyer and SSAIS Director. “We aren’t just failing survivors. We are failing our youngsters.”

FCPS lawyers mounted a disgraceful shaming campaign to disparage the survivor, who was 12 when she reported a sexually hostile environment at her school. According to Truszkowski, “the tactics they employed to discredit and humiliate a now 23-year-old survivor are so predictable it’s laughable. Except that it’s not funny. It’s despicable.”

Title IX lawsuits are unusual because of the significant legal hurdles required to prevail. It takes considerable courage and determination to challenge an unresponsive, unsupportive school system more concerned about its reputation and liability than in ensuring a safe learning environment. Survivors and their families should not have to face revictimization and demoralizing hurdles to hold schools responsible for failing to uphold students’ civil rights. SSAIS remains dedicated to providing resources and support to guarantee all students the right to learn in schools free from sex discrimination and gender-based violence.