New York City Schools mishandled several cases of sexual assaults involving "economically disadvantaged black girls" between the ages of 13 to 15, three federal complaints argue.
Brooklyn-based attorney Carrie Goldberg filed the complaints with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights in November 2015, April and the most recent on June 4. Goldberg is now calling for the Education Department to jointly investigate NYC Schools with the U.S. Department of Justice, arguing these cases appear to present evidence of systematic racial and gender discrimination in the system.
The Huffington Post obtained redacted copies of the complaints along with dozens of pages of evidence. The names of all of the girls who allege they were sexually assaulted are being kept anonymous as they are minors.
In one case, a 15-year-old student at Teachers Preparatory School was forced to give oral sex to two boys in a stairwell, while five others stood guard, the complaint details. A few days after the assault, one of them told her at lunch that they were going to do it again, which prompted her to report the initial incident to a guidance counselor.
But the girl was suspended for engaging in sexual activity on school grounds, after the school claimed the encounter was consensual.
"This behavior constitutes a danger to the health, safety, welfare and morals of your child and others at school," a letter to the girl's parents, obtained by HuffPost, said.
An administrator revealed in a Feb. 29 conversation with the complainant's family that they were pursuing suspension charges against the girl because NYPD declined to make an arrest in the case, according to the complaint.
“"It was so much pressure. I couldn’t take it. At times I felt like giving up on my life."”
At M.S. 584, an 8th grade girl was punched in the genitals by a boy in the hallway, then he dry humped her while another boy slapped her across the head, according to the complaint.
After the school suspended the attacker for a month, the girl was stuck in three classes, lunch and gym with him, the complaint says. When she tried to transfer to McKinney Secondary School of the Arts, NYC Schools forced her to audition. They had the "survivor of sexual assault literally do a song and dance in order to attend a safe school," the complaint states.
Though the girl's family and legal team requested an audition waiver, NYC Schools ignored it, which the complaint argues is a violation of her Title IX rights for accommodations. She completed the audition, but McKinney declined to admit her, the complaint said.
The girl's family struggled for more than a month to get her into a new school, according to their filing.
The third case, about an 8th grader from Spring Creek Community School who said she was sodomized, was first reported on by BuzzFeed in March. After the girl reported that a video of the incident was being shared among students, the school principal told her that she should transfer or she'd have to deal with gossip and harassment, according to the complaint.
“Everyone was blaming things on me,” she said. “It was so much pressure. I couldn’t take it. At times I felt like giving up on my life.”
““Teenage black girls are sexualized in society in a way that white girls are not."”
"I think there's a race and a class issue, in addition to a sexism issue," Goldberg told HuffPost. "Teenage black girls are sexualized in society in a way that white girls are not. In these cases, there was no doubt the sex happened, no belief the girls were making up the whole stories, there was ample proof this happened. What was being disbelieved was whether or not it's consensual."
Goldberg argues that in these cases where victims were unable to attend school without being harassed by their attackers, the schools "informally suspended" them.
NYC schools wouldn't say much about the allegations.
"Our legal team is reviewing these deeply troubling complaints and will respond to the Office for Civil Rights regarding any pending matters," spokeswoman Toya Holness told HuffPost.
The New York City Department of Education is currently subject to two federal investigations on sexual assault cases, one that opened in August 2015 and another that began in January.
Goldberg said she's convinced that NYC Schools "don't even realize the basics" of rights for victims of sexual violence under the gender equity law Title IX.
"None of my clients were told you have Title IX rights," Goldberg said. Each report of assault, she continued, must "trigger Title IX protocols, like stating, 'You have all these rights under Title IX, a right not to be retaliated against, to an investigation and counseling,' and on and on."
The Education Department's Office for Civil Rights currently has 90 investigations open at 82 K-12 schools and school districts over the handling of sexual assault cases.
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