An Oregon high school, its school district, and its administration are under scrutiny after a student and former dance team member filed a lawsuit claiming her constitutional rights were violated.
According to the lawsuit, the 14-year-old was blindfolded, harassed, humiliated, and abused by older members of the Lakeridge High School dance team, as well as other students from the school during hazing events. She was then told by various school officials to remain quiet about what took place.
Those named as defendants in the lawsuit include the Lake Oswego School District, superintendent Heather Beck, Lakeridge athletic director Ian Lamont, team volunteer Suzanne Young, Lakeridge High School principal Jennifer Schiele, dance team head coach Kayla Nordlum, and assistant coach Ashley Nordlum.
The complaint states that the defendants not only violated the girl’s constitutional rights, but also neglected school and district policy, in addition to state law.
According to the complaint, one of the initiation events involved listening to older members of the team discuss offensive sexual activities while using explicit language, which was condoned by head coach Kayla Nordlum.
A following incident occurred where younger members of the team were forced to participate in obscene activities in downtown Lake Oswego. The girls were then taken to the high school’s athletic field where older members of the team, as well as other students, threw water balloons at the younger girls and forced the girls to wrestle with each other and dance with male students.
The girl claims that at no point during the events did she have the opportunity to leave or speak to any adult.
The complaint also says that while the coaches and principal of the school were not present at the events, they either knew or should have known that the initiation was taking place and did not take any steps to stop it. According to the complaint, similar activities had occurred in the past and no one did anything to prevent them.
The girl eventually brought her concerns to assistant coach Lily Schauffler who reported these concerns to to the head coach and athletic director Ian Lamont. Schauffler revealed the girl’s identity to Lamont to prevent retaliation, and this maddened Nordlum, Schauffler alleges.
At a retreat several weeks after the concerns were brought up, Nordlum met with each class to discuss the initiation, and the complaint states that it was clear that Nordlum was trying to discern who told Lamont about the events.
While meeting with the girl’s freshman class, Nordlum told the girl it was her last chance to talk about the initiation before she need to remain quiet, a violation of the girl’s right to free speech.
Nordlum then texted Schauffler and threatened to fire her from her position if she did not tell her exactly who had complained about the events. Schauffler quit soon after receiving these messages.
The girl’s mother also received an email from Nordlum in which she accused the girl of lying and said, “I hope I don’t hear anything more about this night from anyone else, but if I do it could result in some sort of suspension.”
Other dancers on the team bullied the girl in person and on social media, and once the season started, the coaches removed her from competitions and forced her to sit on the sideline during a football game. This resulted in the girl leaving the team.
A district investigation revealed that hazing had occurred at the events. The lawsuit says that despite this finding, the Superintendent, coaches, and school administrators did not address the problem or provide a safe environment for the girl.
According to the suit, the girl has and will have to pay for medical and psychological expenses in addition to the cost of private dance lessons since she is no longer on the team.
The complaint also encourages the court to require that the district have mandatory training programs about hazing and bullying to prevent events like this from occurring in the future.
Additionally, the suit calls for Kayla Nordlum, Ashley Nordlum, and volunteer Suzanne Young to be barred from coaching or volunteering in the district.
Since the lawsuit has been filed, principal Jennifer Schiele has apologized for what took place and has said that the hazing culture at the school will change. A multistep plan involving training and education about hazing to prevent these events from happening in the district has been created and recommended by Schiele and superintendent Heather Beck.