There is a lawsuit brewing in Alabama in which the plaintiff alleges that an 8th grade girl was used as “bait” so that a boy could be “caught in the act” of sexual harassment. The plan was for teachers to intervene before the girl was harmed. But according to the suit, the sting operation did not go well. The boy took the “bait,” but the rescue squad arrived at the scene of the crime in the boys’ bathroom too late. Medical evidence confirmed the girls’ story—she had been raped.
The suit is against the district, the principal, two assistant principals and a teacher’s aide. The district court dismissed most of the lawsuit for reasons that are too complicated to explain here. But suffice it to say that regardless of how the legalities are resolved, this was a colossally bad idea in the first place.
Two points are worth emphasizing. First, the tragic miscalculation here sprung from the notion that the school could not address the boy’s reported sexual advances until he was “caught in the act.” That’s just not true. What is true is that punitive disciplinary action could not be taken without some evidence of wrongdoing. But a school district should have other tools in the toolbox to address sexual harassment. Where was the counseling? Where was the proactive effort to teach appropriate conduct between boys and girls? Where was the parent involvement?
Second, there is no way that students should be allowed to be involved in “sting” operations like this. Schools need to enforce their policies about sexual harassment without putting kids at risk.
The case is on appeal to the 11th Circuit, and it has drawn considerable interest from advocacy groups and the Department of Education. The case is Hill v. Madison County School Board, 957 F.Supp.2d 1320 (N.D. Ala. 2013).
DAWG BONE: LET’S NOT BE USING STUDENTS IN A “STING” OPERATION.