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Junior Doe v. Allentown School District Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 25, 2015

Re: Junior Doe v. Allentown School District, et al.

Civil Action 5:15-cv-02495

The family of Junior Doe, the minor Plaintiff who was sexually assaulted in Jefferson Elementary School in May 2013, is both pleased and vindicated by the recent court filing by the Department of Justice. The above lawsuit was filed after the Allentown School District failed to take measures to prevent and failed to properly investigate the report of a seven year-old elementary student who was sexually assaulted by another student in a bathroom at the Jefferson Elementary School. Our lawsuit alleges that the Allentown School District violated the young student's civil rights and failed to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

As a result of allegations of student-on-student sexual harassment that occurred in 2003-2004, the United States Department of Justice has been monitoring the District under a Consent Decree. The Department of Justice is seeking to extend the Consent Decree another two years. According to the filing, "The United States found that the District's 'failure to properly investigate and resolve allegations that students were victims of sexual harassment not only violates the specific provisions of the Consent Decree, but prevents the District from fully complying with the Decree's central requirement - that it take reasonable and appropriate action to prevent, address and eliminate sexual harassment.'"

After our lawsuit was filed, counsel for the Allentown School District, Mr. John Freund, was "critical of the attempt to exploit the settlement from the earlier assaults, calling the 2013 incident completely unrelated" and he called the lawsuit an attempt to make money. The parents of Junior Doe are offended at the notion that the current lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to make money. The purpose of the lawsuit is to obtain justice for Junior Doe and to ensure that no other child will suffer the same horrible fate as Junior Doe.

After learning that their first grade student was sexually assaulted by another student, despite numerous requests, the parents were never given any answers or results of the investigation the District claims to have conducted. The District repeatedly refused to speak with the parents and the offending student remained in the school, even after the student made threatening remarks to Junior Doe not to report the assault or he would do it again. Attorney Freund has been quoted in the press claiming "It was thoroughly investigated and found to be unfounded at that time." The recent DOJ filing details deficiencies in the investigative process including the District's failure to 1) properly investigate incidents as potential sexual harassment, 2) apply the required preponderance of the evidence standard to its investigations, 3) ensure that all appropriate remedies are identified, documented, and implemented, and 4) provide required oversight and monitoring of complaint investigations." Plaintiffs believe that these issues are very closely related to their incident and have alleged that the District also failed in the investigation of Junior Doe's assault. The District never revealed any findings to the parents and did not take any remedial action against the student responsible. Accordingly, we feel that our situation is not only closely related, but that the District's failures rise to a violation of Junior Doe's civil rights and constitute a violation of Title IX.

Attorney Freund has called the Justice Department's criticism "Monday morning quarterbacking" and that "[a]nybody can nitpick about one instance or another." The sexual harassment and sexual assault of students while they are attending school is nothing trivial. There is no such thing as "nitpicking" when the incidents involve sexual harassment and sexual violence against defenseless children. Protecting children from this terrible harm must be the District's priority.

The District's response to the reported sexual assault of Junior Doe, and recent DOJ filing highlight the deliberate indifference to the rights of the students of the Allentown School District. The Junior Doe lawsuit was filed in an attempt to effect change within the District, to ensure compliance with Title IX, to ensure that the students of the District can attend school knowing that instances of sexual harassment will be properly investigated and handled, and to obtain fair compensation for the terrible harm suffered by Junior Doe. The DOJ filing serves to substantiate the Plaintiff's position and to indicate that the failures apparent in the Junior Doe case are evident of systemic failures throughout the District.

We are interested in speaking with victims of or any witnesses to any act of sexual harassment or sexual violence within the Allentown School District that were outlined in the DOJ report or that were not reviewed as part of the DOJ investigation. We ask that any witnesses or victims please contact Attorney Jason Schiffer at 610.625.2100 or JSchiffer@cohenfeeley.com.

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