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Student suing Brighton School District over response to sexual assault

The student was continually harassed at school after coming forward and was forced to leave the school, the lawsuit states.

BRIGHTON, Colo. — A female student has filed a lawsuit against the Brighton School District 27J and several of its staff members claiming that they failed to respond properly to an accusation of sexual assault by another student at the school.

According to the suit, a detective with the Adams County Sheriff's Office on Nov. 1, 2018 notified David Smith, an assistant principal at Brighton High School, that the victim, identified as Jane Doe, was raped and sexually assaulted by a fellow student. 

That detective also informed Smith that Jane Doe was the second victim, the lawsuit says. A previous allegation was reported by a different student in May 2018.

The detective told Smith the suspect needed to be segregated from Jane Doe and that a safety plan needed to be put in place.

By Nov. 5, the lawsuit says no action was taken against the suspect to prevent him from having contact with Jane Doe. 

The next day, Jane Doe's mother spoke to the school counselor (who is not a defendant in the suit) and asked for options because her daughter's emotional health had deteriorated and she "could no longer force herself to go to school" where she would come in contact with the suspect, the lawsuit says.

The counselor said the only options were for Jane Doe to change schools, leave class early to avoid other students in the hallways or use homebound services, the lawsuit says.

Jane Doe's mother reported to Desiree Quintanilla, an intervention specialist at the school, that the suspect was now "everywhere Jane Doe would go in school" despite having little contact with her before, the lawsuit states. She reported that intimidating and hostile comments were made toward Jane Doe by the suspect and his friends. 

According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe on Nov. 7 spoke to Smith, an assistant principal, and said she felt "she was being punished for speaking up."

Jane Doe's mother spoke to Janelle Weaver, another assistant principal, about her concerns that nothing was being done to prevent the suspect from contacting her. 

In response, Weaver told the mother, the suspect "had just as much of a right to be at BHS as Ms. Doe had," the lawsuit states. Weaver also said she could not do anything about the suspect until charges had been filed because it was only an accusation of rape, according to the lawsuit.

On Nov. 8, Jane Doe's mother was notified that the suspect had been suspended from school. During conversations with several staff members, Jane Doe's mother said that her daughter was "terrified of the fallout" following the suspect's suspension. She expressed that her daughter "wished she would have just kept quiet."

According to the lawsuit, Jane Doe and her mother made requests for a 504 plan, which is used to assist students with disabilities or an Individualized Education Program, but were denied. Jane Doe was diagnosed with severe PTSD, anxiety and depression following her sexual assault, the lawsuit states.

Jane Doe has been unable to return to school, according to the suit, and has been forced to enroll in homebound services.

The lawsuit accuses the district and staff members of violating Title IX, which requires them to "provide effective means for preventing and responding to sexual harassment."

It alleges the district and staff violated Jane Doe's rights to access to education, as required under Title IX. The lawsuit also accused the district of retaliating against Jane Doe by not offering to remove the suspect from school and instead suggesting that Jane Doe alter her schedule to avoid the suspect.

Chris Fielder, superintendent of Brighton 27J School District, Shelly Genereux, a principal with the district and Richard Patterson, the director of student achievement and professional learning, are also named in the lawsuit.

Brighton School District 27J said they are aware of the recent filing of a lawsuit against the district but "due to the fact that this is ongoing litigation we are unable to comment on any matters related to this case."

Their statement also said, "please be assured the safety and security of our students is our top priority."

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