Virginia student accused of sexual misconduct loses discrimination case

WASHINGTON – A student in the northern Virginia suburbs who alleged he was the real victim amid accusations of sexual misconduct lost his case as a federal judge rejected the teen’s claim of gender discrimination.

The 16-year-old student and his father, identified in court papers by pseudonyms, sued Fairfax County Public Schools, saying three female students at Lake Braddock Secondary School “colluded” to accuse the boy of inappropriate touching and making sexually explicit comments and gestures.

Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. (Washington Post photo by Jahi Chikwendiu.)

School system administrators determined that the 16-year-old violated district policies and reassigned him to an alternative school for the final months of the 2017-2018 school year, according to court papers.

In the lawsuit, filed in July, the student and his father said the school system conducted an inadequate investigation that violated the student’s rights under Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools receiving federal money. They also said the Fairfax school system infringed on the teen’s free speech and due process rights. The teenager and his father asked the court to overturn the boy’s suspension and expunge his disciplinary record.

A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia determined on May 29 that the boy and his father didn’t prove those claims, and it granted summary judgment in favor of Fairfax County Public Schools.

The student’s attorney, Subodh Chandra, did not immediately provide comment Friday.

School system officials said they are “grateful” for the court’s decision and “believe that the decision is legally sound,” but they declined to comment further.

The lawsuit was filed amid a national reckoning over sexual harassment and assault. The boy and his father say media reports that “suggest the pervasive nature of sexual assault committed by male students” influenced the school system’s treatment of the student, who the lawsuit said had a 4.1 grade point average and belonged to the crew team and drama club.

The student and his father said the school system refused to believe the boy because “he is male and would have believed a female student in the same situation.”

One of the female students accused the boy of touching her crotch and grabbing “her bottom” and exposing his genitals. The boy said they were engaging in playful behavior and poking each other when the girl lost her balance and he accidentally touched her. He denied exposing his genitals.

A second student said the boy put his hand on her hip and buttock, which the boy denied. A third student said the boy, during crew practice, grabbed his genitals through his spandex and made sexual statements about women. The boy admitted to making a sexual joke but said it wasn’t told directly to the student who complained about the joke, according to the lawsuit.

The Fairfax system, Virginia’s largest school district, faces two other federal lawsuits that stemmed from its handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

A lawsuit filed by a Robinson Secondary School student similarly argued that he faced discrimination and was punished unfairly because of his gender. An October trial is scheduled in that case, court records show.

Another lawsuit was filed by a former Oakton High School student who accused school officials of not properly investigate a sexual assault she said occurred aboard a bus on a school band trip to Indianapolis. A federal judge recently declined the Fairfax school system’s request to have the case dismissed.

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