After a week’s worth of testimony from plaintiff’s witnesses, Lewisville ISD starting putting on its witnesses in the trial of accusations by a former Hebron 9th Grade Center student that the school violated her Title IX rights after she accused two football players of sexually assaulting her at off campus party in the fall of 2012.
Both the girl and the two boys she accused were underage at the time of the incident. It is the Herald Democrat’s practice not to name sexual assault victims and the boys are not being named because they were never charged with any crime and were minors at the time. Title IX law prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from discriminating against anyone based on gender.
The Hebron 9th grade campus officials conducted an investigation into the girl’s allegations but said they didn’t find by a preponderance of evidence that the sex, which the two boys admitted occurred, was without the girl’s consent. Her parents and attorneys have alleged that she was intoxicated to the point that she could not give consent. The school district employees answered that the statement about the girl’s intoxication varied depending upon which of the witnesses were asked.
Over the past week, the girl’s attorneys have spent a lot of time going over the investigations that the staff should have done and when they should have done it and when they did do the investigations that were completed. In court on Monday, Hebron attorneys went to great pains to point out to the jury that the district had an established code of conduct and a method for filing complaints complete with a method for appealing any decisions reached based on those complaints.
One of the people who testified Monday was Lewisville Superintendent of Schools Kevin Rogers. He testified that he kept an eye, from afar, on the investigation into the girl’s allegations of sexual assault. He said as he sat in court on Monday, he doesn’t believe that the girl was sexually assaulted. He said a lot of what he saw in the report was upsetting. Under questions from the girl’s attorney Charla Aldous, Rogers said the district took 88 days to start its investigation into the allegations because the Carrolton Police had asked the district to hold off until the officers finished their investigation.
Aldous asked if the district is required to follow that suggestion by police. Rogers said they aren’t required to but the district felt it prudent to do so. He said another investigation was not started, as Aldous said the district was required to do, into the girl’s parents’ allegations about bullying because the district saw the allegations of sexual assault, bullying and cyber bullying as all “one big situation.”
Rogers, who was the schools Title IX coordinator, said everything was happening at one time. He said the district did have an obligation to start a Title IX investigation unless “there were extenuating circumstances,” which he said the rape allegation and the police investigation constituted. He said no one at Hebron 9th Grade Center told him about the rape allegations. He heard them from a school board member at a football game.
While Rogers told Aldous that he had the authority to remove the two boys at the heart of the rape allegation from the school while the charges were investigated, Rogers walked that back with the district’s attorney saying that they would never remove a student from school based only on an allegation. When asked if a 14 year-old girl who is intoxicated give consent to sex, he said “no.” But then the district said in its report that it could not find that she did not give consent. He said if one of the boys made comments at school about taking the girl’s virginity and wearing shorts to school with her blood on it as proof of that act, then that would be considered sexual harassment, yet the boy in question was never disciplined for that.
“It’s very inappropriate,” Rogers said of that kind of behavior.
“If it’s proven,” he added.
Another one of the people who testified Monday was the cheerleading coach who worked with the girl at the heart of the case during her freshman year. Coach Courtney Kennedy said she never kicked the girl off the team. She said the girl just stopped going to games, practices and other events. She even failed to show up for the next year’s tryouts, the coach said. The coach said she felt for the girl once her mother explained what had happened to her. The coach said she tried to talk to the other 9th grade cheerleaders about their treatment of the girl at the heart of the case. Kennedy said she received an email from the girl’s family saying that some of the cheerleaders had sent the girl cards and other statements of support and those had been helpful to the girl. Kennedy said she didn’t open an investigation into the bullying that the girl’s mother complained about on the cheerleading squad because Kennedy thought the high school counselor had already been notified and was handling that part of things, Kennedy said.
Another witness who testified Monday was the homebound teacher who worked with the girl after she was placed in the off-campus program after being diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The girl left school in October and did not ever return to Hebron to take classes. Nancy Bower testified she had worked with more than 100 students in her career as a homebound teacher. She said the girl at the heart of the case was bright and worked hard. The teacher said she found the girl’s at-school teachers to be compassionate about the trauma the girl had faced and willing to help her where ever they could. Bower also said that the girl’s family treated her with respect and welcomed her into their home. She said she was especially impressed that the girl bought Kennedy a gift card at the end of their time together. The girl’s parents had previously testified that the school gave the girl extra work as a retaliation for bringing the complaints against the football players and the cheerleaders. Bower said the teachers worked to reduce her workload, not increase it.
The case resumes Tuesday at the Chase Bank Building in Sherman with Judge Ron Clark presiding. Attorneys are expected to make closing arguments in the afternoon.