SEATTLE -- The U.S. Department of Education is investigating the Seattle School District s handling of a claim of rape made by a student during a school sanctioned camping trip.
The student was 15 years old in November of 2012 when she and nearly 30 other Garfield High School students attended a school-sanctioned camp in the Olympic National Park.
The FBI and park rangers immediately investigated the crime. The U.S. Attorney s Office in Seattle declined to file charges.
But the girl s parents contacted the Department of Education because of what they called a slow and ineffective investigation by the Seattle School District.
Their investigation didn t start until almost six months after the event, said the girl s father, who asked not to be identified to protect the identity of his daughter. Not only was it not prompt, but they only conducted their investigation upon our insistence.
The father said he could understand the difficulty in filing criminal charges in the case. Even though there was medical evidence that proved there was sexual activity, the young student the teen accused of raping her said the sex was consensual. And witnesses told differing stories.
But the school district s threshold in an investigation is not as high as a criminal court. The district has to determine if the sexual assault more likely than not occurred.
The girl s parents say the school district delayed its investigation and didn t take quick action to protect her from the threat of harassment or retaliation.
She heard from friends that the perpetrator claimed he had been framed, said the girl s father.
The teenage girl never returned to Seattle schools and now lives out-of-state with her parents.
The morning after the incident the girl told people that she was raped by a stranger in her own bunk. But later she admitted she and some other girls had gone to the boys bunk house and NatureBridge camp and she said she was raped by a fellow student there.
Her mother says fear kept her from reporting the student immediately.
Like every other sexual assault victim she was in a state of shock, said the girl s mother.
In a statement, a Seattle School District spokesperson wrote:
We take the issue of sexual assault seriously and are continuing to work with all parties involved including state and federal agencies and the family to address the concerns that have been raised and ensure that the appropriate legal process is followed. The family has filed complaints with several oversight agencies, and we trust that resolution of those actions will be fair and equitable.
- This incident occurred in November 2012, and law enforcement authorities were immediately called. They investigated but did not file charges.
- Parents asked SPS to investigate and we did. Based on the investigator s report, Superintendent concluded the evidence did not support an assault.
- Parents appealed to School Board, which affirmed Superintendent s decision.
- The parents have filed complaints with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, US Department of Education and Puget Sound Educational Services District, all of which are still pending.
- Because this is a pending legal matter and it involves students, there isn t anything else we can say.
The U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Office is best known for investigating colleges for improper handling of sexual assault and harassment claims.
However, the same so-called Title IX violations can be levied against any school that receives federal education funding.
Seattle is one of about two dozen school districts under investigation nationwide for possible Title IX violations.