The Department of Justice and the Allentown, Pa., School District today filed a proposed consent decree addressing multiple complaints of sexual assault of students at Central Elementary School. The comprehensive consent decree resolves allegations that six- and seven-year-old students were sexually assaulted by another student in the boys’ bathrooms at Central Elementary School during the 2003–2004 school year.
In July 2009, the department intervened in a lawsuit filed by several of those students against the district and conducted an extensive investigation. The department alleged that sexual assaults occurred on at least five separate occasions and that the district was made aware of each incident immediately after it occurred. The department alleged that despite this notice, the district did not take appropriate action, and in some circumstances took no action, to prevent the harassment from recurring.
Furthermore, the department alleged that both before and after the sexual harassment of the students, the district failed to adopt and implement adequate and effective sexual harassment policies and procedure as required by federal la w; had the district adopted and implemented such policies and procedures, the district would have prevented the continued sexual assault of students. The department seeks thorough protections for Allentown students as required under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based harassment, including the sexual assault of students, in public and other schools that receive federal financial assistance.
“The sexual assault of students in elementary schools cannot be tolerated. It must be stopped. The impact on the educational experience and life of a young child is devastating.” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Parents are entitled to know that their children will be safe in school every day. We appreciate the steps the Allentown school district has agreed to take to address this matter and to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment for all students moving forward.”
“Protecting our youngest and most vulnerable citizens from sexual assault will always be a top priority,” said Zane David Memeger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “We are hopeful that with this consent decree, we can forever close this very sad and disturbing chapter in the history of the Allentown School District.”
The department and the district worked collaboratively to draft the consent decree to ensure the safety and well-being of all students in the district. The consent decree will remain in effect for a minimum of three years. If the consent decree is approved by the court, the district will:
- Develop and implement a comprehensive plan for addressing and preventing sexual harassment in all district schools;
- Retain an expert consultant in the area of student-on-student harassment to draft and implement a sexual harassment policy and procedures;
- Provide training to administrators, faculty, staff, students and parents on sex-based harassment;
- Select qualified district and school-based equity coordinators to ensure proper implementation of the district’s harassment policies and procedures and compliance with Title IX, including prompt investigation, resolution and reporting of sexual harassment complaints and allegations;
- Create procedures for identifying, monitoring, and supervising students with a confirmed history of sexual harassment toward other students;
- Develop and implement policies and procedures for communicating with outside agencies, such as police, hospital and child protection agencies, of allegations of sexual harassment in the district; and
- Submit annual compliance reports to the department.