FCPS plans to take sexual assault case to the Supreme Court


Photo via NBC Washington

A sexual assault case has been put on hold as FCPS plans to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court. 

The sexual assault lawsuit involving an unidentified former Oakton High School student, referred to as Jane Doe, was filed in May 2018, alleging that an older male student sexually assaulted Doe on a band trip in 2017. The lawsuit accuses FCPS of acting “with deliberate indifference to reports that she had been sexually harassed by another Oakton student,” as stated in the court filings. 

The lawsuit further alleges that FCPS officials didn’t provide any appropriate assistance, explain the nature of sexual assault proceedings, nor investigate the assault. Doe’s parents were also not made aware of the full nature of the allegations. There are further claims that FCPS officials handled the situation poorly by threatening Doe with disciplinary action, victim-blaming, and continuous discouraging of taking the situation to the police. 

A jury ruled against Doe under the pretense that the school board lacked the knowledge of the events. Doe filed a motion for a new trial, however, the District Court denied the motion. Doe appealed and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the denial, holding FCPS responsible for investigating reports of sexual assault under Title IX, regardless of whether or not they believe in the allegations. 

Currently, the FCPS school board is planning on taking the case to the Supreme Court to seek review of Title IX protections.

The Title IX amendment prohibits gender-based discrimination, and if this case were to make it to the Supreme Court it would force the court to reexamine the law. It is difficult to say how the recently conservative majority Supreme Court would react, but it is safe to say that if this case was to be ruled on, it has the potential to bring on major ramifications. 

FCPS has had similar issues with Title IX protections in the past. For example, a student at Lake Braddock Secondary School alleges that school officials failed to investigate her complaints about sexual assault. FCPS has repeatedly stated that they intend to uphold Title IX protections and maintain student safety, but they have also been accused numerous times of mishandling Title IX cases and failing to protect their students. 

This sexual assault case has shined a light on the FCPS’s failures to uphold their commitments to student safety, issues with the way these types of cases are handled, and the lack of responsibility school officials have. If this case manages to find its way into the Supreme Court, it could have major implications for the aforementioned Title IX protections.