Tuesday, January 16, 2007

School Officials Couldn't Have Known that Eighth Grader Would Molest

Last week, a federal judge in Michigan dismissed Title IX claims against the Mesick Consolidated School District which had been filed by the parent of a kindergartener who was allegedly molested by an eighth grader. See Peer v. Porterfield, 2006 3898263 WL (W.D. Mich. Jan. 8, 2007).

The eighth grade boy had been assigned to an "apprenticeship" with the plaintiff's daughter's teacher as part of the school's career skills curriculum. He is alleged to have used that position to gain access to and molest a number of kindergarten girls, including the plaintiff's daughter, who was the first one to report the situation to a teacher. Immediately, the eighth grader was suspended, barred from school property, and ultimately expelled.

A school district is only liable under Title IX liability for peer harassment if appropriate officials remain indifferent to sexual harassment of which they have actual knowledge. Thus, in this case, it was necessary for the plaintiff to prove that school officials knew or should hve known that the eighth grader was a sexual threat and should not have been given access to kindergarten students. However, the court determined that the eighth-grader's history of poor academic performance and disciplinary problems that were not sexual in nature did not constitute the requiste notice.

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