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Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA)
BOISE - A southern Idaho school district has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit involving a black football player who said he was sexually assaulted by three teammates in a high school locker room in 2015.
Lee Schlender, the victim's attorney, confirmed Monday a monetary settlement was reached with the Dietrich School District, but declined to share details regarding the amount and terms of the agreement.
The settlement is currently sealed in federal court. The school district's attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.
"This case was about the negligence of the school and school board in respect to what they may or may not have known," Schlender said. "This wasn't a case about the future punishment of the perpetrators; that's a separate legal issue."
Last year, the victim's family filed a $10 million lawsuit detailing months of racial harassment against the victim by fellow students. The lawsuit accused the school of failing to prevent the abuse despite many incidents happening in front of football coaches and other school officials. Furthermore, it claimed that the victim faced racial slurs, was forced to recite a racist song and was subjected to a fistfight during football camp.
School officials have maintained they weren't aware of any abuse allegations or racial taunts until after the sexual assault was reported.
Settlement talks began soon after the school asked U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill to dismiss the case several months ago, Schlender said. He added that previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings have made it extremely difficult for parties to sue school districts because plaintiffs have to prove the school's "deliberate indifference."
"I couldn't just allege these accusations, I needed specifically the school board knew of a mistreatment, that it had been horrific, and that they had taken deliberate steps not to address it," Schlender said. "So we agreed to enter into an agreement to resolve the case. So the school could say 'We didn't do anything wrong, but we'll pay money and everyone can go home.' "
Three white high school football players initially were charged with sodomizing the victim with a clothes hanger in the attack at Dietrich High School, which is in a rural town of 330 that's predominantly white and Mormon.
Two of those cases went through closed juvenile court, but John R.K. Howard's case went through adult court.
The sex assault charge against Howard, who was 18 at the time of the incident, was later dropped. He eventually was sentenced to probation for felony injury to a child, which means he won't be required to register as a sex offender and his conviction may one day be dismissed.
Separately, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the case to determine if any constitutional rights were violated.
The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they are victims of sexual assault.
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