Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Students Claim Retaliation for Complaining About Hazing Assault

A family has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Tennessee, alleging that two daughters were kicked off of the Siegel High School basketball team in retaliation for complaining about an incident in which they and another were the victims of sexual contact initiated by another player on the team. The complaint claims that the reprisal against their daughters constitutes a violation of Title IX by the Rutherford County School Board. 

The Board agrees that an offensive incident took place last year, but denies that it was sexual in nature, referring to it instead as "goosing" or "poking them between the buttocks."  The Board also denies that the decision to remove the girls from the team had anything to do with their complaint, arguing instead that it was the consequence of the girls having repeatedly missed practices and other conduct issues.  The Board's claim that they investigated and reprimanded the offending student after it was reported could also cast doubt on the plaintiffs' theory of retaliation, since often in retaliation cases the purpose of reprisals is to suppress whistleblowing on an institution's failure to address the underlying offense.  It's hard to imagine what would motivate the school to retaliate against the girls if it indeed took seriously their reports of the offense.