In 2010, an incident occurred at Forest Hills Central High School in Michigan that sounds quite familiar to the high school rape story from Steubenville, Ohio. A student was sexually assaulted by a star player on the school’s basketball team in a soundproof band room. The student informed a teacher about the incident and in return, the teacher notified the principal. Inside of opening an investigation into the matter, the principal attempted to discourage the parents from filing charges because they could damage the assailant’s Division I basketball recruiting prospects.
A Michigan law firm and the National Woman’s Law Center recently filed a complaint against the high school:
As alleged in the complaint, two weeks later another female student was sexually assaulted by the same attacker. Despite a legal obligation under Title IX to investigate the assault and protect the student, the high school officials never interviewed the girl or her parents again, failed to conduct an investigation, and for two and a half weeks left the attacker in one of her classes.
According to Think Progress:
After the news of the assault spread throughout the Michigan high school, the victim faced backlash from her fellow students, who called her a whore and a liar. She was the subject of intense cyberbullying, and she was also harassed by her assailant and his friends in the school’s hallways. Her parents reported the harassment to the school, but administrators took no action. “The school’s failure to address the harassment sends a chilling message to students that they should remain silent in the face of sexual assault and cannot count on their school to provide a safe learning environment,” a statement from the National Women Law Center pointed out.
Law enforcement did their own due diligence after the rape was reported. The attacker was charged with two felony counts of criminal sexual conduct against both of his victims. The attacker later pled guilty to a single count of misdemeanor assault and battery. He was sentenced to attend Kent County’s Adolescent Sexual Offender Treatment Program for a second time. The only sanction the school imposed upon the student assailant was to temporarily bench him on the basketball court.
“Title IX requires schools to ensure that the educational environment is free from sex-based discrimination,” said NWLC Vice-President of Education and Employment Fatima Goss Graves said in a statement.
“This school completely ignored its legal responsibility to address student-on-student sexual harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to protect the victim. The school’s failure to address the harassment sends a chilling message to students that they should remain silent in the face of sexual assault and cannot count on their school to provide a safe learning environment.”
It’s unfortunate that Forest Hills High School felt that athletic achievement was more important than protecting its students.