Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Upsetting news of the day

Jezebel, one of Gawker's offspring sites, is reporting on something so absolutely heinous that I felt compelled to rise creaking from my absence. If you click here, you're going to read some particularly disturbing stuff, so bear that in mind.

A Missouri girl in seventh grade, in special ed, reported a rape at the hands of another student. She was questioned repeatedly, under "intimidating" circumstances, and then recanted. The school concluded that the girl was seeking attention and approval. She was also expelled for her accusation of rape. The school allegedly forced her to write an apology and proceeded to coerce her in giving the handwritten apology to her accused rapist. The following school year, when she returned, despite her mother asking for increased monitoring, her alleged rapist managed to rape the girl a second time. Thankfully, a juvenile court became involved and was able to determine that yes, at least this time, the rapist did commit rape. There is no dispute about this fact.

The mother is suing the school for allowing this to happen. However, the school's response is frightening: they are denying ever allegation. Jezebel quotes the school's response:
Plaintiff's claims against the District are frivolous, and have no basis in fact or law. Therefore, the District Defendants are entitled to an award of their reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

Any damages the Plaintiff may have sustained were as a result of the negligence, carelessness, or conduct of third parties over whom the District Defendants had neither control nor the right to control.
This is unconscionable. This is ludicrous. This is infuriating. This might be one of the most wrongheaded and awful things a bureaucracy has ever done. The fact that the attacker raped the girl is an undisputed fact. Add to this that the school had prior knowledge of an alleged rape, whether or not the girl recanted under duress. This means that the school is responsible for the safety of those attending. I can't believe I have to even say that. The school allowed through criminal negligence the rape. And on top of this, they are denying everything.

I didn't really comment on the Canadian judge who so wrongly told a rape victim that she was "asking for it" because I thought anything I added to this debate was simply noise. I'm reporting this story because I think Jezebel is on the right track: we must get the word out on these incidents. A society that allows this is happen is not doing its job. The society's job is to protect its citizens from harm, even if that harm is from each other. When an institution of the society, an agreed authority, allows through negligence sexual violence, then it is not doing its job. Simply put, schools are for educating children. What lesson is this school teaching when it cannot even take responsibility for its (in)action?

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