Teen's family appeals to U.S. Department of Education to investigate Garfield High School rape

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

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SEATTLE - The family of a former Garfield High School student, who reported being raped on a school field trip in 2012, alleges Seattle Public Schools mishandled the incident and has now asked the U.S. Department of Education to investigate.

In a letter written last week to the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, the parents said their daughter was sexually assaulted by a classmate on a school-sponsored field trip in November 2012.

KIRO 7 will not name the parents in order to protect their daughter’s identity.

The Office for Civil Rights confirmed with KIRO 7 that federal investigators are looking into a Title IX sexual violence case involving Seattle Public Schools. Because it is an open investigation, the spokesperson could not share any additional information.

The FBI and the National Park Service handled the criminal investigation, because the incident occurred in a national park. Both agencies said in a joint statement: “While we can’t give further details on the review of this victim’s claims, we can assure you that the FBI and the NPS have investigated the matter and pursued all appropriate actions.”

In an email exchange uncovered by KIRO 7, a federal agency told the girl’s parents that no charges would be filed.

A Seattle Public Schools spokesperson said in a statement: “We take the issue of sexual assault seriously and are continuing to work with all parties involved -- including state and federal agencies and the family -- to address the concerns that have been raised and ensure that the appropriate legal process is followed. The family has filed complaints with several oversight agencies, and we trust that resolution of those actions will be fair and equitable.”

The parents told KIRO 7 their daughter was a sophomore at the time, taking advanced placement courses and maintaining an A-B average. On Nov. 7, 2012, they said, their daughter and other classmates took an overnight trip to Nature Bridge in Port Angeles.

In describing the incident, the victim wrote that she and the classmate had been talking as she started to fall asleep.

She said he had asked if she wanted to play a game called "red light, green light," with him being a fire truck, and for her to say "red light" when she wanted him to stop.

In her statement, she recalled saying "red light" when he touched her under her shirt, but he continued and said that fire trucks don’t stop for red lights.

She said he then grabbed her wrist as she struggled. She said she told him to stop and started crying as he pulled her pants down and penetrated her, first vaginally, then anally.

“This devastated the child and the family life that we once had. No parent should have this experience, and any parent could,” her mother told KIRO 7 over Skype.

The parents received a phone call from a school staff member on the field trip the day the alleged assault happened.

“I remember it very clearly. I was totally devastated, and I could feel my heart racing. I couldn't believe it,” her father said.

In documents related to the Seattle Public Schools investigation, KIRO 7 found that the district placed the boy on an emergency suspension of 10 days.

Seattle Public Schools wrote in a report to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction that the FBI instructed them not to interview anyone until the criminal investigation was finished.

The district also stated they did not know the investigation was done until the girl’s parents told them in March 2013.

During the district’s later investigation, the alleged assailant was interviewed, but not the victim. The investigator noted that the victim’s parents did not agree to allow their daughter to be interviewed.

But in talking to KIRO 7, the girl’s mother explained her daughter was already out of state and unavailable to be interviewed, at a Utah therapy center to deal with the aftermath of the assault.

“This is a typical example of how the school district blames the victim for their failure to conduct their own investigation,” she said. “They had three and a half months to interview our daughter after she was raped. They made no effort to interview her.”

In the boy’s testimony to the school investigator, he told them the sex was consensual.

When asked if the victim said anything during the incident, he responded, “I did not pay attention to her much. She did not do anything to give me the impression that she did not want it.”

The student told the investigator he had sex 13 times before this incident, and that none of the other girls had acted like this victim during intercourse.

The victim’s family has since moved out of state, and the girl’s parents have run out of funds to continue sending her to the educational therapy center.

They told KIRO 7 they will be considering a lawsuit against Seattle Public Schools.

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