Suit says Trumbull BOE failed to protect student after report of sex assault

TRUMBULL — A lawsuit filed last week alleges that the town’s Board of Education did not “take reasonably adequate measures” against students who harassed and threatened a Trumbull High School student after she reported an alleged rape by a classmate.

The girl, identified as Jane Doe in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, was the target of “repeated verbal harassment that went beyond simple teasing and name-calling,” states the lawsuit. The suit against the school board claims that harassment was sparked by her reporting a rape.

“Plaintiffs pray for judgment against defendant for money damages, fees, costs and such other relief as the court deems just and proper,” the lawsuit says.

“It’s pretty clear that there was a hostile environment and that harassment was severe and pervasive,” said Gregory Smith, the attorney representing Jane Doe and her family. “And … whether the district is responsible for that, I think there is enough evidence for a jury to reasonably find that the steps they took to protect her were minimal and ineffective.”

Trumbull First Selectman Vicki Tesoro did not respond immediately to requests for comment on Thursday.

“A response with any information regarding this case cannot be provided, due to a pending litigation,” said Gary A. Cialfi, superintendent of Trumbull Public Schools.

According to the lawsuit, just after Thanksgiving 2017, the girl — in ninth grade at the time — told her mother a male classmate sexually harassed her.

The lawsuit states the girl’s mother told a school official about the incident and was told that was already “keeping an eye” on the boy.

Nearly a year later, the girl told her mother that the boy had “picked her up near the school in his car, taken her to his house and raped her” in November 2017, the lawsuit says.

In October 2018, Jane Doe was in 10th grade and she and her alleged rapist were in the same geometry class, the suit states. Her mother met with school officials to discuss what her daughter told her and to ask school officials to keep the boy away from the girl.

The lawsuit claims that Trumbull High’s dean of students told the girl’s mother the administration would keep Jane Doe safe. A Trumbull Police school resource officer took the police report of Jane Doe’s allegation of rape, and the girl’s mother told the SRO the family wanted to press charges, the lawsuit states.

The Trumbull Police Department did not immediately return request for comment Thursday on its investigation.

The girl’s mother worked out a plan with the school to have her daughter do her geometry work alone in a guidance office after officials said they could separate the two students’ desks but could not remove the boy from the math class, the lawsuit says.

Soon after Jane Doe was taken out of the geometry class, a school official told her alleged rapist to stay away from her, according to the suit. But it was around that time that she started to see her assailant more and to receive threats from other students, the suit states. Officials told the girl’s mother that the family needed to talk to police about the threats and harassment at school.

The girl’s mother reached out to police to check on the investigation. The lawsuit says police told the girl’s mother to call the school or take her out of classes for her protection.

On Jan. 8, the mother withdrew her daughter from Trumbull High School and enrolled her daughter at a private school.

“Under the operations of the defendant, Jane (Doe) suffered sexual harassment so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it deprived her of access to the educational opportunities and benefits provided by defendant,” the lawsuit alleges.