Sexual harassment lawsuit against Metro Nashville will proceed

U.S. District Court Judge Aleta Trauger denied summary judgment May 10 in a Title IX lawsuit against Metro Nashville Public Schools. The suit, brought by the parents of four high-school girls, alleges that the girls were pressured into sexual encounters by older male students, that the encounters were filmed without the girls’ knowledge, and that the videos were spread throughout the girls’ respective schools, resulting in extensive harassment, bullying, and humiliation. The complaint alleges that Metro school officials did nothing to protect the victims from harassment, either before or after the assaults. The Nashville Title IX attorneys at David Randolph Smith & Associates are currently co-counsel for one of the victims.

The sexual harassment lawsuit alleges that in September 2017, two 14-year-old girls were pressured into “unwelcome sexual contact” by a number of male students in a stairway at Maplewood High. In March and April 2017, two 15-year-old girls were sexually assaulted in separate incidents at Hunters Lane High. Each of the four instances of harassment and assault were videoed and shared on social media, and one video was uploaded to Pornhub.

Plaintiffs allege that Metro administrators violated Title IX by allowing the continued sexual harassment and humiliation suffered by the female students during and after the videoed sexual encounters.

Sexual harassment lawsuit to proceed

Title IX, part of the Education Amendments of 1972, holds:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

According to the plaintiffs’ sexual harassment lawsuit, Metro administrators failed their duty of care to these students by failing to protect them from unwanted sexual encounters, as well as the resulting long-term bullying and degradation the female students suffered afterwards.

The plaintiffs allege that school administrators had long been aware of the pervasive sexual harassment culture at Metro high schools, but failed to address the problem in any meaningful way. A recent report, published as a result of the lawsuits, found that 3,500 instances of sexual harassment or misconduct had occurred in Metro schools over a five-year period.

When one victim and her mother complained to a principal after her assault, they were told that the harassment would simply “blow over.” Although the district has a Title IX coordinator, she claimed that she was unaware of the four harassment incidents and had not been trained to handle such issues.

In its answer and motion for summary judgment, Metro argued that the harassment suffered by the girls did not constitute a Title IX violation. Metro noted that boys were present in the videos as well, and argued that this meant that the girls were not subjected to unequal retaliation. Metro also noted that other female students assisted in perpetrating and videoing the assaults.

Judge Trauger dismissed these arguments in her opinion denying summary judgment. She noted that sexual harassment claims are not negated by the fact that one of the perpetrators is the same sex as the victim. She also cited evidence showing that the female victims were subject to significantly more retaliation and bullying than the male perpetrators in the videos, nothing that “the bullying described [of the girls] follows the easily recognizable script of treating women and girls as uniquely tainted and lessened by their engagement in sexual activity.”

Following the denial of summary judgment, the sexual harassment lawsuit is expected to proceed.

The Tennessee Title IX attorneys at David Randolph Smith & Associates stand ready to represent you or your loved ones in your sexual discrimination claims. Call (615) 742-1775 to speak with an experienced attorney.

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