Hundreds of students at a Massachusetts high school walked out of class Monday in support of a former student who has filed a lawsuit over how school officials handled her claims that she was raped when she was 15 years old.
The walkout at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School started at 9:30 a.m. and lasted for about 15 minutes. The students gathered at a sports field to hold a moment of silence and give speeches.
Some held signs reading "No means no" and "Stop blaming victims and start holding attackers accountable."
The woman, identified in court documents as Jane Roe, filed a civil action last Tuesday claiming she was sexually assaulted in November 2013 during a football game at the high school. According to Roe's complaint, the school district failed to take action against her attackers or provide educational needs for her after she reported the incident, and instead stigmatized her by forcing her to sit alone in a common area.
The school district and Superintendent Bella Wong, who also served as the high school's principal, were named as defendants, as were Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School Director of Student Services Aida Ramos and Housemaster Leslie Patterson.
Roe's alleged attackers, who were also minors at the time of the incident, were not identified in the lawsuit. Roe says they lured her to an adjacent field, where they sexually assaulted her under the bleachers.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
"I resisted .... I tried to run away," Roe later texted those two classmates, according to the complaint. "You both raped me."
Roe's lawsuit said the boys, who were unnamed, acknowledged the incident in text messages, begging for forgiveness and offering money for her silence. One of them allegedly said he would "go to Juvie if u being [sic] this to the police or school," adding that his girlfriend was all he had and that he couldn't afford to lose her.
Editor's note: Details provided in the court document below may be considered graphic to some readers.
Six days after the incident, Roe reported it to the school's clinical counselor, who told Patterson and the victim's mother, a teacher in the school district. Roe provided the school with screenshots of the texts.
While she tried to continue attending class, Roe decided it would be difficult because her attackers were still in school. In response, Patterson allegedly had the victim sit in a common area, a space where other students would serve detentions and in-school suspensions. She was not assigned work, instead spending her days alone listening to an iPod.
Despite her parents having gone to court to get harassment prevention orders against the accused, Roe claimed the school "took little action" to keep them away from her. Hundreds of students, including one of the boys who allegedly attacked her, regularly passed through the common area to pick up mail.
At the district's suggestion, Roe was transferred to a therapeutic school more than an hour from her home for a 45-day program. However, due to concerns about the school's curriculum and her ineligibility to continue playing rugby or field hockey at Lincoln-Sudbury, which she had done for two seasons, Roe ultimately enrolled at Lawrence Academy, a private institution in Groton, at her family's expense.
Additionally, Roe's lawsuit claimed the district didn't comply with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights' Title IX requirement to provide a "Notice of Outcome" into an investigation.
Nearly two years later, in October 2015, the district sent a letter saying the investigation into her allegations was inconclusive; two years after that, in August 2017, with both alleged attackers having already graduated from the school, a second letter claimed the first had incorrectly reported the school's findings. "There was sufficient evidence that an interaction of an egregious nature did occur on the evening of November 1st, and that the boys' conduct substantially violated the core values of L-S," the school acknowledged.
An attorney for the school issued a statement Monday saying that the school disctrict took "prompt and appropriate action."
"Such action was subsequently confirmed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights which, after conducting its own comprehensive investigation, found 'insufficient evidence' to conclude that the School District had 'failed to promptly and equitably respond,'" the statement read.