The parents of a girl who said she was raped by a classmate on a Garfield High School field trip say a $700,000 settlement from Seattle Public Schools is “an opportunity to allow our daughter to move on with her life and not have to relive the trauma.”
“This case was never about us as the parents. It was about our daughter and the students of the Seattle Public Schools,” said a statement from the parents, who are not being named to avoid identifying their daughter.
Although the school district admits no liability in the incident, which took place in November 2012, it released a statement Wednesday detailing ways it plans to more effectively supervise field trips and respond to allegations of sexual assault.
Those ways will include closer chaperoning on overnight trips, including middle-of-the-night bed checks.
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Chaperones will also be better informed on how to report policy violations by students or other chaperones to school security officers, principals or the superintendent’s office.
In addition, a task force of staff, teachers, principals, parents, students and sexual-harassment experts will establish “a robust and easily accessible program to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual assault,” the district said.
The case stems from an incident during a three-day outdoor-education program at Olympic National Park in which the girl says she was raped by a classmate. No criminal charges were filed in the case, which was investigated by the FBI and the National Park Service.
The district also did its own review.
Both students were Garfield sophomores at the time.
The settlement, reached in mediation between the school district’s attorneys and the girl’s parents, still needs the approval of the School Board, which has the matter on next week’s agenda.
It must also be approved by a court-appointed guardian ad litem representing the girl, who is a minor.
The girl’s parents had filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, accusing the district of discriminating against their daughter, saying the district failed to do a prompt and proper investigation.
They also alleged that the district failed to protect their daughter from retaliation from other students after she reported the incident.
Ron English, the school district’s general counsel, said the settlement avoids the risk of a lawsuit by the alleged victim’s family, which he said would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars even if the school district prevailed.
The $700,000 settlement would come from a reserve the district maintains to deal with lawsuits.
The girl, who now lives out of state, never returned to Garfield.
The statement from her parents Wednesday said they are “glad that the district recognized there were deficiencies with their field-trip procedures, Title IX compliance, and the training on the policies.”
But they said actions taken so far are just the first steps, and the district “will need to ensure that administrators and/or teachers that do not follow these procedures and policies are held accountable.”
The parents said they are creating a nonprofit organization, “Stop Sexual Assault in School,” to educate students, families and schools about sexual-assault prevention.
English said the agreement also calls for the girl’s parents to withdraw all pending claims connected with the incident and to refrain from filing any others — or contacting the district in connection with the matter.
According to the news release, the girl’s parents also have agreed “to not publicly identify or complain about the male student accused of the assault.”
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