Legal organization files lawsuit against MDCPS over alleged mishandling of rape case

(WSVN) - A national legal organization is fighting back on behalf of a South Florida student. They’re suing the school board and superintendent, saying not enough was done to protect her from repeated sexual harassment and assault.

The lawsuit against the Miami-Dade County School District was filed, Tuesday afternoon.

It claims the district tried to cover up several rapes and that they do not properly train school employees on how to handle sexual assaults.

It’s a story of horror at a Miami-Dade school that now has a women’s rights group in Washington D.C. taking action.

It started with an alleged school rape we first reported in 2018, when a ninth-grader said she was forced to have sex with three different boys in a Carol City Senior High School bathroom.

Jane: “I was going to leave, and he grabbed me by my sweater. I was going to try to pull and leave, and he wouldn’t let me go.”

The 14-year-old told 7News last February that one of the boys forced her to have anal sex.

Jane: “The third time, it was after school. I was supposed to stay after school for math tutoring, and there was a guy asking me if I could go to the restroom with him.”

Now, the National Women’s Law Center along with a team of Miami attorneys is suing the Miami-Dade County School District and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

Shiwali Patel, National Women’s Law Center: “We took on this case because what happened is absolutely horrifying.”

The lawsuit refers to the victim as “Jane” and reads, “when Jane and her friends reported the sexual harassment, including the assaults, to multiple school board and school district employees, including Carol City’s principal, vice principal, assistant principals, a school resource officer, at least two teachers, and at least two counselors on November 7th, 2017, instead of coming to her aid, the school district employees failed to adequately and equitably respond and investigate the allegations, engaged in a cover-up of the sexual assaults, coerced Jane to recant her written statement, and suspended her for sexual misconduct.”

Shiwali Patel: “What the school did, is when they learned about what happened to her, is they forced her to change her statement because they didn’t want to deal with sexual assault. They didn’t want to deal with their obligations under federal civil rights laws.”

In a statement to 7News, the school district said, “Miami-Dade County Public Schools is concerned with the well-being of every one of our students, with counselors and special programs in place to ensure their safety and health. The school district consistently addresses all reported incidents seriously, and with confidentiality, in order to preserve the dignity of the students involved.”

The school district said they have not yet been served with the lawsuit and haven’t been able to review it.

The State Attorney’s Office did not press charges in the case because they said the student gave inconsistent statements about whether the sex acts with the three boys were coerced or not.

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