Boulder’s Fairview High failed to investigate rape allegations against student-athlete, lawsuit says – Canon City Daily Record
Officials at Fairview High School in Boulder knew during the 2016-2017 school year that a student-athlete was accused of raping at least two other students, but did not conduct an investigation and no ‘Did nothing to protect students from a hostile environment at school, two former students allege in a federal lawsuit filed Friday.
Leaders at Fairview High have fostered a school culture that is conducive to sexual assault and abuse, say the women in the lawsuit against the Boulder Valley School District and Fairview Principal Don Stensrud. The school and Stensrud “have repeatedly turned a blind eye to rampant sexual harassment and abuse,” the lawsuit says.
Neither Stensrud nor the Boulder Valley School District immediately responded to requests for comment sent Friday afternoon by the Denver Post.
The litigation comes four months after the former Fairview star quarterback, Aidan Atkinson, was acquitted of sexually assaulting two students, but pleaded guilty to harassment in a more than year-long saga that fascinated the school community and propelled a student-led movement change the way the school responds to allegations of assault, particularly against athletes.
The allegations in the lawsuit involve a lacrosse player who was in second grade during the 2016-17 school year. In January, he was charged with eight counts of sexual assault, kidnapping and two counts of domestic violence in connection with the alleged assaults of three Fairview students, according to the lawsuit.
The Post does not identify the athlete, who is now an adult, as he was a minor at the time of the alleged crimes and was indicted by Boulder County Juvenile Court. The case is pending and the juvenile court records cannot be reviewed as they are secret under state law.
The Post also does not identify the victims of sexual assault, and neither the women nor the athlete are named in the lawsuit.
Ostracization and victim blame
One of the suing women, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, said she was at a Halloween party in 2016 with the athlete, who she was dating, when he forced her in in a closet and raped her. The woman, who was in second grade at the time, came out of the closet sobbing; her boyfriend came out “visibly enraged” and hit a wall, according to the lawsuit.
The woman broke up with the athlete the next day, but rumors spread throughout the school about an assault because the students had witnessed the consequences, according to the lawsuit, and the woman faced reprisals.
“Because (the accused) was a popular student-athlete at (Fairview), Ms. Doe quickly became the butt of blame for the victims, was ostracized by her classmates and harassed by (her) friends,” says the trial.
The woman told a school counselor about the assault and then told a Boulder Police Academy resource officer. She struggled at school as the bullying escalated, but school officials did not open a Title IX investigation, even though the woman’s accusation was at least the second against the athlete the school was aware of, according to the lawsuit.
Another student, who is not a complainant in the lawsuit, said she was raped by the athlete in October 2015, according to the lawsuit. This student’s mother reported the alleged assault to the school when she learned of it a few months after the incident.
Stensrud told the woman who said she was assaulted at the Halloween party that he believed there were “three or four” other victims of the athlete, according to the lawsuit.
Rumors of sexual misconduct by the athlete became so prevalent at school that in February 2017, a student created an Instagram account describing the athlete as a “rapist,” according to the lawsuit.
The account was widely shared, and when school officials found out, they sanctioned the student who created the account but did not investigate the charges against the athlete, according to the lawsuit.
School principal Stensrud told students and their parents who reported the allegations or asked for help dealing with harassment from other students that the school could do nothing unless a victim does not pursue criminal proceedings with Boulder Police or seek a formal restraining order. , says the trial.
“This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the law and the responsibilities of the school, and perhaps more than anything, it is something that they need to change immediately,” said women’s advocate John Clune.
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and requires schools that receive federal funding to investigate and remedy hostile educational environments, among other obligations.
In the case of the woman who said she was raped during the Halloween party, school officials asked the woman to change her schedule or go to school online to avoid the athlete, but did not force him to change his schedule, according to the lawsuit. When she struggled to finish her homework, work at school, or even get out of her car and enter the building at the start of the school day, she was punished with detention for being late and others. penalties, according to the lawsuit.
“A historical, cultural problem”
In May 2017, the second woman involved in the lawsuit said she went with the athlete in a baseball canoe to a choir concert, where they started kissing. The athlete asked the woman, who was in first grade at the time, to perform oral sex and she refused. He forced her to do it and then raped her, according to the lawsuit.
The student did not report the assault to authorities until 2019, but the day after the attack, the dean of students at Fairview asked a friend of his if the friend knew of a student who “was injured during the choir concert,” says the trial.
In the summer of 2017, school officials negotiated with the athlete’s family to allow the teenager to be transferred to a private boarding school in Maine, without any note on his disciplinary record, according to the trial.
The incident is part of a larger “toxic culture” of sexism and downplaying sex crime reports, according to the lawsuit.
Stensrud and an anonymous sports department administrator had previously made statements accusing the girls of being sexually assaulted, and the administrator told other Fairview staff that “boys couldn’t behave like because of the pressure they were under and all the pornography they were watching. », Indicates the trial. Stensrud has also repeatedly called female administrators, police officers and teachers “girls,” according to the complaint.
A former Fairview school administrator was criminally charged in 2020 for failing to report suspected child abuse cases after failing to act after a student reported a student assaulted her sexually, according to the lawsuit. The misdemeanor charge was dismissed the week after it was filed, court records show.
The women who filed the complaint are seeking pecuniary damages. They can’t sue for institutional changes because they’re no longer students, Clune said, but still hope to push for reforms at Fairview High School.
“Their biggest concern is that there is a historical and cultural problem within the high school,” he said. “And more than anything, that’s what they hope to help fix.”
Denver Post reporter Elise Schmelzer contributed to this report.