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Cherry Creek administrators failed to protect student after sexual assault by football player, lawsuit alleges

A former student is suing the Cherry Creek School District alleging administrators violated her right to an education by failing to investigate and protect her from a hostile environment at school after she reported being sexually assaulted by a football player.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Denver, alleges Cherry Creek High School administrators repeatedly refused to open a Title IX investigation after the female student reported the 2022 assault, and failed to issue a no-contact order to prevent her from encountering the other student on campus.

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see the lack of compassion and caring on the part of the Cherry Creek School District with yet another victim of sexual assault and abuse,” said attorney Laura Wolf, who is representing the female student.  

Both students are identified by pseudonyms in the lawsuit because they are juveniles.

Cherry Creek School District spokeswoman Lauren Snell said in a statement, “We take these kinds of allegations very seriously. When we first learned of the allegation, we followed all required Title IX procedures, and it was determined that this matter did not implicate Title IX because it happened off campus. Because it did not implicate Title IX, it was handled by law enforcement.”

Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and applies to schools that receive federal funding.

The student who filed the lawsuit alleged she was assaulted during the school day in January 2022 when both students had a free period, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges the male student suggested the two teens leave campus during the free period, and when the other student said she wanted to stay at school, he took her phone and told her that she could get it back by going to a nearby business with him. There, the male student went into a bathroom with the phone and when the female student followed to get the device back, he locked the door and sexually assaulted her, the lawsuit alleges.

The male student was criminally charged as a juvenile and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of unlawful sexual contact in 2022, according to the complaint.

But the Cherry Creek School District didn’t discipline him after the assault was reported other than to suspend him from one football game, the lawsuit alleged. He “was never suspended, expelled or kicked off of” the team, according to the lawsuit.

Cherry Creek School District officials declined to address any disciplinary actions taken in the aftermath of the 2022 incident.

“We cannot discuss details regarding students involved or actions taken due to privacy protections for students,” said Snell, the district spokeswoman, in the statement.

The female student faced an “ongoing hostile education environment” at the high school because she feared running into the other student on campus and faced retaliation from classmates for reporting the assault, the lawsuit alleged.

The student missed classes because she would go into a dean’s office for support because of the trauma of the assault, Wolf said.

She eventually enrolled at another high school because her family could not be sure that Cherry Creek High administrators would protect the student and ensure that she was not “exposed” to the other pupil, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleges that the school district has “consistently failed to respond adequately and with appropriate speed” to sexual harassment and abuse allegations by ignoring reports, disbelieving or minimizing reports and not taking steps to protect survivors from other students — especially when male student-athletes have been accused.

“This toxic culture has resulted in a policy, custom or practice of deliberate indifference among high-ranking administrators of ignoring reports made by female students and allowing gender violence to flourish and fester,” the lawsuit alleged.

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