Boulder Valley School District in Colorado ignored allegations of sexual assault perpetrated by a student-athlete and fostered a culture of hostility toward the alleged victims, according to a lawsuit filed Friday.
As reported by The Denver Post, two former Fairview High School students are suing the district and principal Don Stensrud for their response to the alleged actions of a former lacrosse player who was a sophomore during the 2016-2017 school year. In January, he was charged with eight counts of sexual assault, kidnapping and two counts of domestic violence in connection with the alleged assaults of three Fairview students, according to the lawsuit. The women claim that the school and Stensrud “repeatedly turned a blind eye to rampant sexual harassment and abuse,” the lawsuit states.
One of the women, identified in the lawsuit as Jane Doe, said she was at a Halloween party in 2016 with the athlete, whom she was dating, when he forced her into a closet and raped her. The woman, who was also a sophomore at the time, burst out of the closet sobbing. Her boyfriend emerged “visibly enraged” and punched a wall, according to the lawsuit.
According to the Post, the woman broke up with the athlete the next day, but rumors spread across the school about an assault because students had witnessed the aftermath, the lawsuit says, and the woman faced retaliation. The lawsuit adds that because the accused was a popular athlete, the woman became the target of victim-blaming, was ostracized by her classmates and harassed by the athlete's friends.
School officials requested that the woman change her schedule or attend school online to avoid the athlete but did not require him to change his schedule, the lawsuit says. When she struggled to complete assignments, function in school or even get out of her car and walk into the building at the start of the school day, she was punished with detention for being late and other sanctions, the lawsuit says, as reported by the
In May 2017, the second woman involved in the lawsuit said she went with the athlete to a baseball dugout during a choir concert, where they began to kiss. The athlete asked the woman, who was a freshman at the time, to perform oral sex and she refused. He forced her to do so, and then raped her, the lawsuit says. That summer, school officials negotiated with the athlete’s family to allow him to transfer to a private boarding school in Maine, without any notes on his disciplinary record, the lawsuit says.
Stensrud and an unnamed athletic department administrator previously made statements that blamed girls for being victims of sexual assault and the administrator told other Fairview staff members that “boys could not be expected to behave because of the pressure they were under and all of the pornography they watched,” the lawsuit states. Stensrud also repeatedly referred to female administrators, police officers and teachers as “girls,” according to the complaint.
The women who filed the lawsuit are seeking monetary damages. They can’t sue for institutional changes because they’re no longer students, according to their attorney, John Clune.
School district leaders in the 2020-21 school year adopted new policies consistent with federal Title IX regulations, provided training for students and staff and created a Title IX advisory council, Boulder Valley said in its statement. The district also added a Title IX coordinator position for the 2021-22 school year and expanded training requirements.