Teen Awarded $70K in Hazing Case Against Oregon School District
It wasn’t until three months after the initial report of hazing that the school conducted its own investigation into the allegations.
An Oregon teen has been awarded $70,000 after a federal jury found the Lake Oswego School District and her high school principal guilty of negligence in connection to a 2014 hazing.
The parents of Sabrina Achcar-Winkels, now 17, filed a lawsuit in March 2015, stating the Lake Oswego School District was negligent after failing to immediately investigate their daughter’s claims that she and other members of the school’s dance team were hazed.
Also named in the case were Superintendent Heather Beck, Lakeridge Principal Jennifer Schiele, former school Athletic Director Ian Lamont, former Pacer Dance Team coach Kayla Nordlum, former Pacer Dance Team assistant coach Ashley Nordlum and parent team volunteer Suzanne Young.
Only the school district and Schiele were found negligent. All other parties were dismissed from the case.
Court documents say the victim and other members of the Pacer Dance Team at Lakeridge High School were taken to a field at the school for an initiation on August 9, 2014. They were met by other students, including boys, who smelled of marijuana and alcohol.
The girls were called derogatory names, hit with water balloons, sprayed with ketchup-filled water guns and ordered to wrestle each other in swimsuits on a tarp covered in maple syrup, soap and oatmeal. Bystanders threw syrup-coated feathers on them as well, reports KOIN 6.
The suit also alleges they were subjected to inappropriate conduct during two supervised team trips in June 2014 and August 2014.
The teen reported the August 9 hazing to an assistant coach and asked to remain anonymous. The assistant coach told Kayla Nordlum who passed the claim up the chain of command.
The family’s lawyer, Leta Gorman, says teammates discovered Achcar-Winkels reported the hazing and excluded her from activities. At one point, claims the suit, Kayla Nordlum threatened her with suspension if her mother did not stop telling people that alcohol and drugs were involved in the initiation. Achcar-Winkels was also ordered to remain on the sidelines during a routine at a school football game following the allegations, according to Oregon Live.
An external investigation launched by the superintendent three months after the initiation concluded the hazing did occur and the school district should have investigated the allegations back in August.
During the trial, Gorman said Achcar-Winkels has endured harassment and bullying. Her family’s car was egged and she was told to kill herself. Three days before the trial started, someone also vandalized her car by writing a vulgar phrase in lipstick.
The student’s parents say they are proud of their daughter for speaking out.
“This was never, ever about the money. This was about supporting our daughter, who had the strength and tenacity to do the right thing in the face of a community that is very afraid to do so,” says her mother, Taissa Achcar-Winkels. “Lake Oswego is a community that sometimes can breed fear and intimidation.”