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2 women suing Issaquah School District for bullying, retaliation

This tweet was included in court documents outlining a lawsuit filed by two young women in Issaquah. (MyNorthwest)

Two young women are suing the Issaquah School District, alleging school officials repeatedly failed to protect them amid a hail of harassment that spanned from school grounds to online bullying.

The lawsuit against Issaquah School District, Ron Thiele, Donna Hood, and Chris Burton was filed Oct. 25. The details of the allegations boil down to the following narrative.

One girl was raped by “two star football” players from Skyline High School in 2014 when she was 16 years old. She reported the incident to officials. After the players pleaded guilty to assault with sexual motivation, the players were transferred to another high school in the district and were allowed to continue playing football.

The teen and her younger sister say that a campaign of harassment followed that included the Skyline football coach. A #transfer hashtag was used on Twitter by various players at Skyline in November 2014 after the players were transferred and were targeted at the victim. Some tweets tag the victim by name. Court documents show that on Nov. 25, 2014, Coach Brad Burmaster tweeted “preach on brother…” in response to a student’s tweet stating “Funny how someone would think it’s better to ruin other people’s lives just to save their reputation. #transfer.” Documents note that the coach’s tweet was made during school hours on campus.

Harassment continued at school with the victim being called “slut,” “whore,” and “liar” at school with the alleged knowledge of school officials. Court documents also point to an incident where one student planted drugs on the victim and reported her to officials in an attempt to discredit her. Security video, however, shows how the drugs were planted.

As the harassment continued, the victims’ family was harassed at grocery stores and their home was pelted with eggs, feces, and paint balls. A fire bomb was also thrown at their home.

Ongoing harassment

Court documents allege that school officials failed to protect the two girls as harassment continued. Also, officials reportedly refused to investigate the matter. The documents also note that the district violated its own athletic code by allowing the players to continue playing football despite the allegation. At the time, the matter was working its way through the court system.

The players were also initially allowed to attend dances at Skyline in 2015, despite objections from the victims and their family. When officials were reminded that there was a sexual assault protective order against the players, they were prevented from attending. Students then reportedly attacked the victims’ home with explosives.

On March 26, 2015, one player pleaded guilty to assault with sexual motivation. Despite the conviction, he attended football games at Skyline in violation of a court order.

In the years that followed, school officials allegedly allowed Skyline to continue honoring the football players no longer attending the high school. They were included in weekly news shows at the school and featured in a presentation at graduation.

“…a graduating senior (she) was humiliated as she and her family were forced to watch Defendants honor her rapist before the entire school community. It was her graduation, not his. The District’s priorities were made crystal clear.”

According to court documents, even after the older sister graduated, the younger sister alleges she was harassed. The players began showing up to school events where she was cheering. School officials said they promised protection, but did nothing to intervene when one player showed up at a Skyline football game in Nov. 2016. While the players’ father was threatening the victim’s mother, the player moved into the student section and sat feet in front of the victim.

The girl asked school officials to leave, but was “ordered” to stay and cheer during the game, tears streaming down her face, according to court documents. The principal allegedly threatened the girl’s mother with arrest if she removed her daughter from the game.

L. Michelle, Director of Communications for the Issaquah School District, told KIRO Radio the district was made aware of the lawsuit Thursday morning and does not have a statement yet.

“In general, we would deny any allegations of legal wrongdoing based on what we’ve seen in the lawsuit thus far,” Michelle said.

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