After telling school officials she was raped in the band room, Rachel Bradshaw-Bean was punished. Instead of receiving protection from leaders at her Texas high school, she was kicked out and shipped off to an alternative school—alongside the boy she said attacked her.
In California, 13-year-old Seth Walsh killed himself after telling classmates he was gay. Walsh faced two years of relentless and escalating harassment after coming out, investigators said, but school officials failed to address the abuse until it was too late. In 2010, he hanged himself.
In both of those cases, the K-12 school districts reached agreements with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, after federal investigators found local education officials had failed their obligation to protect students from gender-based violence under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools. In each case, district leaders promised they’d create new school policies to better protect student safety.
Adele Kimmel is banking on a similar outcome for her client. A Washington, D.C.-based senior attorney at Public Justice, Kimmel has for several years been representing sexual-violence victims, including a young Georgia woman who allegedly also faced retaliation for reporting an attack. Inside a Gwinnett County high school’s newsroom, Kimmel said, a male classmate coerced the young woman into performing oral sex. After she reported the purported incident to school officials, she was suspended for engaging in sexual acts on campus. But first, Kimmel contended, educators grilled her client with bone-chilling questions: “What were you wearing?” “Why didn’t you scream louder?”