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Attorney Says Race & Gender Factors in Recent NYC School Sexual Assault Cases

school busWhen it comes to our nation’s response to sexual assault, we still have a long way to go. Now, one Brooklyn-based attorney is calling out New York City schools for discriminatory practices.

According to The Huffington Post, attorney Carrie Goldberg has filed three complaints with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights: one in November of 2015, another in April, and most recently on June 4.

In addition to the federal complaints, Goldberg is asking for the Education Department, to join with the U.S. Department of Justice and investigate NYC Schools for what she claims is systematic racial and gender discrimination.

“I think there’s a race and a class issue, in addition to a sexism issue,” Goldberg told HuffPost. “Teenage black girls are sexualized in society in a way that white girls are not. In these cases, there was no doubt the sex happened, no belief the girls were making up the whole stories, there was ample proof this happened. What was being disbelieved was whether or not it’s consensual.”

The details of the individual cases were obtained by HuffPo through redacted copies of the complaints. Each involved black girls between the ages of 13 and 15, whose names have been protected due to their age.

In one of the cases, an 8th grader from Spring Creek Community School claimed to have been sodomized. BuzzFeed first reported the story in March, but even after the girl reported to administrators that a video of the incident was being circulated among students, the principal allegedly tried to shift the focus to her. The girl said it was the principal who told her she should transfer schools to avoid future harassment and embarrassment.

“Everyone was blaming things on me,” she said. “It was so much pressure. I couldn’t take it. At times I felt like giving up on my life.”

Another case involved a 15-year-old girl at Teachers Preparatory School. The complaint outlines how the girl was forced to perform oral sex on two male students in a stairwell while five others stood guard. After one of the assailants told her at lunch a couple days later they were going to do it again, the girl reported the incident to a guidance councilor. The school took action, but probably not the type you’d expect: the girl was suspended.

“This behavior constitutes a danger to the health, safety, welfare and morals of your child and others at school,” a letter from the school to the girl’s parents, obtained by HuffPost, said.

The school claimed the incident was a consensual act and even the NYPD declined to make an arrest in the case.

The final case involved an 8th grader girl at M.S. 584. After she was punched in the genitals and “dry humped” by one male student, another slapped her on the head. The school did suspend one of the students for a month in this case, but afterwards the girl was reportedly left in three classes, lunch, and gym with her attacker. She tried to request a transfer to McKinney Secondary School of the Arts, but NYC schools forced her to “audition.”

As the complaint pointedly reads, “[the] survivor of sexual assault [had to] literally do a song and dance in order to attend a safe school.” She did so, but McKinney ultimately declined her transfer anyway.

“None of my clients were told you have Title IX rights,” Goldberg said. Each report of assault, she continued, must “trigger Title IX protocols, like stating, ‘You have all these rights under Title IX, a right not to be retaliated against, to an investigation and counseling,’ and on and on.”

Sexual harassment, particularly of females, is of course nothing new. In fact, one survey in 2015 found that one in every three women between the ages of 18 and 34 have experienced it in the workplace. For their part, the NYC school district has yet to provide much useful information.

“Our legal team is reviewing these deeply troubling complaints and will respond to the Office for Civil Rights regarding any pending matters,” spokeswoman Toya Holness told HuffPost.

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