(Washington, D.C.) Today, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) with co-counsel Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP and Florida attorneys, Alice K. Nelson and Allison Hertog, filed a lawsuit against the school board of Miami-Dade County and Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of “Jane Doe,” a high school student who was 14 years old when she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and verbally harassed by fellow students at Carol City High School in MDCPS, the fourth-largest school district in the country.
Jane Doe was subjected to repeated sexual harassment, including three sexual assaults by multiple older male peers in school bathrooms over a two-week period. When Jane and her friends reported the harassment and assaults to the school, school officials engaged in a cover-up instead of coming to Jane’s aid and conducting a proper investigation. Ultimately, the school coerced Jane into recanting her written statement and suspended her for so-called “sexual misconduct.”
When the trauma from the assaults and fear of her perpetrators led to Jane missing school for more than three months, school officials ignored these absences and failed to provide her with any academic instruction or referral for counseling, also in violation of the law.
Jane is a bright, hardworking student whose academic career, health, and well-being have been derailed because of her school’s deliberate indifference toward her reports of sexual harassment and retaliation.
The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleges that the defendants violated Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, the U.S. Constitution, state laws, and school board policies when they failed to respond to Jane’s report of sexual harassment, including multiple sexual assaults, punished her by suspending her from school, and failed to train school employees on how to respond to student-on-student sexual harassment.
“Miami-Dade school officials and school police viciously disregarded and concealed multiple sexual assaults,” said Emily Martin, Vice President for Education and Workplace Justice at NWLC. “Schools have a responsibility to address sexual harassment and the accompanying harm when they first learn about it. Instead, officials engaged in a cover-up, coerced Jane into taking back her initial story, and ultimately suspended her, disrupting her education. It’s illegal, and Jane deserves better. All students do.”