Kansas teen, mother sue school district over alleged sexual harassment

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A Kansas teen and her mother have sued a small Kansas school district, saying it failed to protect her from student-on-student sexual harassment. 

Kansas educators say this is just a sign of the many modern behavior problems schools are struggling to deal with today.

“The test is always:  Is the child a danger to themselves or others?” explained Mark Tallman with the Kansas Association of School Boards.

In Western Kansas the Cimarron-Ensign school district stands accused of failing that test, failing to protect an eighth grade girl from a male classmate sexually harassing her.  

In the lawsuit she says he touched her sexually on the back and leg multiple times, told her he’d had sex with her mother and wanted her to be his girlfriend so he could have sex whenever he wanted.  And, she says, he began calling her a slut when she wouldn’t become his girlfriend.

The lawsuit says she and her mother reported the harassment to teachers, the school counselor, the principal and the school board but nothing changed.

Read a copy of the lawsuit here

Tallman says many schools are struggling to with how to handle reports like that.

“You’re having to then step into a role of how do I investigate? How do I look at a he said/she said situation and collect information?” Tallman said, explaining educators aren’t trained investigators.  “There are no clear cut answers as to what to do. Everyone’s struggling to figure out how to do that.”

He says the old standby of expelling a student is now something districts avoid because it can escalate the problem.

“Research now says you kick out a child, you’ve removed any kind of support or structure,” Tallman said.  “And, so, we often hear, in some cases those are the kids who may come back and be a school shooter.”

The Association of School Boards is going town to town this fall, talking to school leaders. Protecting students from harassment and bullying is a big part of their number one concern: school safety.

“I think everyone’s aware of this problem. We’re just trying to get our arms around how can we do a better job,” Tallman said.

Meanwhile, Cimarron-Ensign USD 102 released a written statement saying it’s going to fight the lawsuit. “The USD 102 school district will vigorously defend this because we have done nothing wrong. Because of pending litigation, we have no further comment.”