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Letters to Authorities

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Sexual Harassment of a Rape Victim at
Wadell High School

Because of the passage of time, all proper names have been changed.

October 30, 2002

Ms. Nancy Rosales
President, Wadell School Board
Scranton, CA

Dear Nancy Rosales,

We're writing on behalf of a female junior student at Wadell High School and her mother. We're deeply concerned about the responses of Wadell school officials in the aftermath of the July 20th kidnaping and rape of this student. We're concerned that the responses of Wadell school officials constitute serious violations of the female student's rights to an equal education as defined by Title IX of the Federal Civil Rights Act. This letter is a formal complaint and request for investigation, correction, and a written apology to the student and her mother.

In particular, we're concerned that Wadell school officials refused to stop the continuous sexual harassment of the girl since the rape, despite the girl's repeated pleas to school officials for help. And that instead of punishing the perpetrators of this harassment as required by Title IX, Wadell school officials punished the girl by severely restricting the girl's freedom of movement in the school. As we understand it, school officials banned her from any location in the school where she could be seen by the perpetrators of the harassment, a restriction that kept the girl from being able to attend her physical education class. And most recently as their way of dealing with the continuing harassment, that school officials put the girl on independent study, an action that has now banned the girl from all but one of her classes with other students.

At the date of this letter, the criminal case against the 31 year-old accused rapist Jermaine Casey is proceeding well and Jermaine Casey has been ordered to stand trial on multiple felony counts of kidnaping and rape.

As we understand it, Casey's stepdaughter was a student in the Wadell /El Molino school district during the summer months at the time of the rape. We understand that Casey's stepdaughter began fomenting hostility among other students toward the rape victim. And that this hostility escalated to the point where many students were accusing the rape victim student of lying about the rape, of being a "skank", of "wanting it", of "looking like a whore", and other such cruel and sexist remarks. These sexist incidents have continued since the rape and have intensified to the point that a few weeks ago the student was threatened on the street by another student who was saying things like "Have you ever seen a Mexican knife, or would you like to", and calling her a "damn slut".

According to the student, she sought help a number of times from her school counselor, Ms. Anders , concerning this harassment. Though Ms. Anders did attempt to find a therapist for the student, she also repeatedly told her there was nothing that she (Ms. Anders ) could do about the harassment. Ms. Anders told the student to ignore it and it would go away. Ms. Anders told the student that she (Ms. Anders ) "couldn't control what comes out of other people's mouths."

The reality, however, as we have brought to the attention of Wadell school officials on a number of similar occasions in the past is that the counselor and all school officials are legally obligated under Title IX of the Federal Civil Rights Act to put a complete stop to the sexual harassment and to protect the girl's civil rights to a non-discriminatory education.

About four weeks ago, when the student continued to seek help to stop the harassment, Mr. Walker, Mr. Peterson, and Ms. Trenton prohibited the student from going anywhere in the school where she would be visible to the students who were harassing her. This action, in addition to restricting the girl's freedom of movement in the school, also had the effect of keeping her out of her physical education class.

On September 17, 2002, the student, Ms. Anders, and Wadell vice principal Karen Trenton were meeting to discuss the girl's schedule. Trenton began to yell at the student about having missed classes. Both the student and Ms. Anders tried to explain two things to Trenton . One, that the girl had been mistakenly scheduled for two classes simultaneously in her first period, and two, that she was having difficulty handling the rape hearings at court and difficulty having to testify in front of the rapist. In response, Trenton began to accuse the student of lying and of making up excuses. And though Ms. Anders validated the student's statements both in regard to the scheduling mix-up and in regard to the rape, Trenton continued to accuse the girl of lying. In addition, Trenton began threatening to kick the girl out of the school.

Two days prior to this meeting the girl had walked out of history class when the class discussion was dealing with the rape of black slaves, and how the victims of these rapes had no rights. The student had told the history teacher, Mr. Hanson, that she couldn't handle dealing with the subject because it "hit too close to home". The history teacher responded to the girl that she" had to move on and deal with it". The history teacher refused to allow the girl to get out of the class dealing with the rape of slaves. The girl did attempt to attend the class, but when the video dramatization of the slave rapes was about to begin, she couldn't handle it and left the class.

At the September 17th meeting between the student, Ms. Anders , and vice principal Trenton , Trenton said she didn't want to deal with the girl's difficulties with the rape discussions in her history class.

Because the student was very distraught over her meeting with vice principal Trenton , the next day the student brought her mother in to school to meet with Trenton . In that September 18th meeting, according to the mother and daughter, Trenton repeated again that the rape was just another excuse for missing classes. Trenton said that there were many girls who had been raped. Trenton implied that it was the girl's problem for allowing the rape to bother her.

Trenton 's response to the problems and concerns brought by the student and her mother was to route the student into independent studies, thus further robbing the student of her rights to a safe, equal education, the very rights that Trenton is legally obligated to protect.

The student did not want to leave the normal school environment. She feels she is being treated unjustly because the school is punishing her and not the perpetrators of the harassment. She feels like she is being wrongfully robbed of her educational rights and being re-victimized by school officials.

We agree. In addition, the school's response injures all the students. The girls learn the dangers of ever seeking help for a rape or sexual harassment, and all students learn that the school doesn't take these violations seriously. We are especially outraged because we have met a number of times with Wadell /El Molino school officials when other female student victims of sexual assaults have been similarly re-victimized by school officials.

We, along with the undersigned student and her mother, ask that you immediately act to correct this situation and create a safe, equal educational opportunity for this student. All school officials who know of this situation are legally obligated to stop all harassment of the girl by other students. The perpetrators of past harassment must be punished. And all school officials who violated the girl's civil rights must also be punished. In addition, the student and her mother are asking for a written apology for the injuries the school has already caused them.

Thank you for your attention.


Marie De Santis

Wadell Student
Student's Mother

Mayor Tom Rogers and all Scranton City Council Members
All Wadell /El Molino School Board Members
Mr. Peterson, Principal of Lasiter Continuation School
Mr. Walters, Principal of Wadell High School
Chief Robert Wagner, Scranton Police Department
Mr. Richard Strom, Superintendent of Schools and all school board members

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Women's Justice Center,

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