Judge Sanctions Fairfax School System for Mishandling Sexual Assault Case
The Virginia school district was sanctioned for destroying or neglecting to preserve important documents relevant to a sexual misconduct case.
A federal judge sanctioned Virginia’s largest school system for destroying or failing to preserve documents relevant to a lawsuit against one of its school officials.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Nachmanoff imposed sanctions on the Fairfax County School Board, reports WTOP. The trial is scheduled for next month.
The lawsuit was filed after an Oakton High School student claimed she was sexually assaulted on a bus by a male student during a band trip in 2017. It alleges the school system failed to take the allegations seriously.
The judge said the school system either destroyed or failed to preserve notes and text messages relevant to the investigation. Lawyers believe some text messages show school officials joking about the allegation.
“Fairfax County Public Schools’ destruction or loss of evidence in this case — acknowledged by the court today — is appalling,” said Adele Kimmel, one of Doe’s lawyers and a senior attorney with Public Justice, a legal advocacy group. “This destruction or loss of key evidence is just one more example of the school district’s failure to follow the law.”
The school system argued that the documents may have been misplaced during school renovations.
Fairfax County Public Schools issued a statement Friday night saying it will appeal the ruling.
“FCPS respectfully disagrees with the judge’s ruling on both the facts and the law,” the school system said. “The documents in question were inadvertently lost months before we were aware of any threatened lawsuit from the plaintiff.”
After the school investigated the claim, it concluded that the sex was consensual.
This lawsuit is one of three filed in federal court in 2018 and 2019 accusing FCPS of mishandling sexual harassment investigations.
The other two were filed by boys who say they were unfairly punished on false accusations by female students. One of those cases has been dismissed, and the other remains ongoing.