5TH Circuit makes short work of student-on-student sex case

John Doe alleges that he was sexually assaulted in the school bathroom by another student when he was in “second or third grade.”  A whole 12 years later, he sued the school district.  He claimed that the district violated his constitutional rights, and discriminated against him based on disability and sex when it failed to prevent this attack.

The constitutional claim failed.  The court cited the very well established principle that a school district is not legally obligated to guarantee that a student will never be harmed by a third party.  You have to show that the district itself caused your injury, and Doe could not do that.

The sex discrimination claim (Title IX) failed because Doe had no evidence that the school district knew about the assault, either before or after.  There were no teachers in the bathroom when it happened, and the youngster did not report the assault to any school official.  He did tell his mother, but “asked his mother not to reveal the fact of the assault until he graduated to avoid the ‘scorn and shame’ that might follow if his peers learned of the attack.”

The disability claim failed for the same reason.

The most interesting part of the court’s opinion is the very brief discussion of the student’s explanation of how he was damaged by this incident. Among other things, he alleged that he was “rejected by girls he asked to school dances’ when he was in seventh grade.”

Hmmmm.  There are many 7th grade boys who get rejected by 7th grade girls for a wide variety of reasons.  If this one had gone to court, it would have been interesting to see what the jury would do with this factoid.  I suspect a lot of memories of 7th grade would be stirred up.

The case is Doe v. Columbia-Brazosport ISD, decided by the 5th Circuit on May 3, 2017.  We found it at 2017 WL 1661416.


File this one under: LIABILITY

Tomorrow: We get a decision in the well publicized “Clock Boy” case.