Berkeley High School student files lawsuit against Berkeley school district for negligence after sexual assault

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Editor’s note 2/11/2020: the defendants’ names have been removed from this article following concerns about minors’ privacy.

On Jan. 31, a Berkeley High School student filed a lawsuit against the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, titled Jane Doe v. Berkeley Unified School District, claiming negligent supervision of students by BUSD employees.

In early 2019, a student at Berkeley High School, or BHS, who is listed in the lawsuit under the name Jane Doe, was sexually assaulted by another student during a school day, according to the lawsuit, which was filed at the Alameda County Superior Court.

The lawsuit lists multiple BHS administrators as defendants, in addition to any unknown persons who may be responsible for negligence. The lawsuit requests mental and emotional distress damages and that the defendants establish and enforce sexual abuse and harassment protection policies, among other requests.

Doe reported the assault to a mandated reporter, who informed Doe that six to 10 other girls at BHS were also assaulted by the same assailant, according to the lawsuit. Although the individual is a mandatory reporter, they did not report the incident to the police or Child Protective Services, according to the lawsuit.

The mandated reporter reported the incident to another administrator the next day, who failed to “promptly notify” Doe’s parents or implement a safety plan to “ensure that Jane Doe felt safe at school,” according to the lawsuit.

“There was no safety plan put in place,” said Jayme Walker, the attorney on the case and partner at Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli, & Brewer. “They say they put a safety net, but my client says that never happened.”

The classroom in which the assault occurred was known by the defendants to be unsupervised and used by students to “engage in illicit behavior,” yet the defendants did not take steps to supervise or secure the classroom, according to the lawsuit.

Walker said Doe still has to see her assailant at school every day, adding that the assailant continued to sexually harass her client by falsely telling others that a pornographic video on his phone featured Doe.

The school district did not comment as of press time.

“Schools, especially high schools, have a duty to supervise students in a manner in which they are safe,” Walker said.

Nina Narahari is the lead crime and courts reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ninanarahari_dc.