Lawsuit: Fairfax County student sexually assaulted on band trip

A lawsuit filed in recent weeks says a girl, who was 16 years old at the time, was sexually assaulted by an older student in the Oakton High School band and the school district's response to the alleged assault constitutes discrimination based on sex under the federal law Title IX.

In the lawsuit, the victim is referred to as Jane Doe. It alleges that in March 2017, the girl was on an out-of-town band trip to Indianapolis and on a dark bus when a fellow band member, a 17-year-old boy, forced the girl to "rub his" genitals, put his hand down her pants and touched her breasts.

The lawsuit says the girl was "frozen with fear, suffered in silence." According to the complaint, the girl did report the assault to friends, who then told staff on the trip.

According to the lawsuit, those adults failed to react and support the student who got physically sick and suffered emotional trauma. Once the student reported the assault upon returning to Virginia, the lawsuit alleges that Fairfax County Public Schools officials threatened the victim with punishment and discouraged her to report the assault to police.

"She was told that she could be punished," said Adele Kimmel, the victim's lawyer who works for the legal non-profit Public Justice. "She was asked victim-blaming questions and a school security officer discouraged her from reporting it to police and saying that if any legal action was taken that she would lose in court."

The complaint says the school district's response is enigmatic of a pattern of ignoring and mishandling reports of sexual assault and harassment, and the response amounts to a violation of the Title IX law.

According to the complaint, "FCPS's response to Doe's sexual assault is consistent with its failure to address well-known and longstanding deficiencies in its policies, practices, and procedures for addressing sexual harassment and assault."

Kimmel notes that Fairfax County Public Schools is already under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for three possible violations of Title IX.

Fairfax County Public Schools said in an email to FOX 5 it could not comment on the lawsuit because of legal concerns about student privacy and personnel, but that "FCPS takes all allegations of Title IX violations seriously, investigates those allegations and takes action where appropriate, including referrals to law enforcement for possible criminal prosecution."

It declined to comment on the three pending Department of Education investigations or if any staff members involved in the handling of the Oakton victim's assault were disciplined.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and that Fairfax County Public Schools be found in violation of Title IX.