Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Lawsuit: Two former Bruton High students groomed for sexual exploitation, and York County School Division did nothing (Free read)

Two former Bruton High School students have filed a lawsuit against the York County School Board, alleging the school did not act to protect them from the sexual advances of an employee. (WYDaily/Google Maps)
Two former Bruton High School students have filed a lawsuit against the York County School Board, alleging the school did not act to protect them from the sexual advances of an employee. (WYDaily/Google Maps)

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Groomed for sexual exploitation.

That’s the main allegation contained in a federal lawsuit filed by two former Bruton High School female students against the York County School Board and the high school’s athletics coach.

The two were on athletics teams and attended the Bruton during the 2017-2018 school year, during which their coach allegedly “groomed” them and acted on sexual behaviors, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia — the suit was filed Oct. 22, 2019.

The two women allege their coach acted inappropriately that eventually led to emotional distress. When both women reported the behavior to numerous staff members, they were met with indifference, according to the lawsuit.

The women are asking for $50,000 in damages. Since no criminal charges are filed against the coach, WYDaily will not be naming him in this story — WYDaily also opted not to name the two former students to protect their privacy, pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

The first student alleges the coach started “grooming” her by offering rides from home in which they would be alone together. The student felt uncomfortable with the arrangement, but the coach insisted, court papers indicated.

The student reported the incident to another employee at the school who directed the coach to stop, but did not report the behavior to school administrators, according to the lawsuit.

The coach then encouraged the student to participate in one-on-one practice sessions, during which he regularly “put his hands on her hips and repeatedly pulled her butt against his groin,” the lawsuit alleges.

“She felt humiliated and powerless, hoping the practice to end as quick as possible,” according to the lawsuit.

While the student felt uncomfortable, she also felt that resistance would result in losing her position on the team and potential scholarships.

The student again reported the behavior to another employee at the school. This time, she explained her feelings of depression associated with the behavior. However, the employee allegedly did not report the incident to other school officials.

After the student suffered an injury that prevented her involvement in the sport, the coach became aggressive and cursed at her, according to the lawsuit. The student began to notice that she would run into the coach throughout the school day, which would cause her anxiety.

The student was “traumatized by this sexual harassment and manipulation” and entered into long-term therapy, court documents said. The student eventually dropped out of school right before her final year.

More than one

A second student has also alleged the same coach acted inappropriately and caused her emotional distress, according to court documents.

In January 2018, the student alleged the coach began “grooming behaviors” with her as well. The coach claimed he wanted to mentor the student on her future and offered adamantly to meet with her in his office, court papers indicated.

It was during those meetings the coach encouraged the student to leave her boyfriend. In the hallways, he would “teasingly” ask her if she had left her boyfriend yet, according to documents.

The student reported the behavior to a teacher at the school. The teacher dismissed the concerns, allegedly saying the coach “was a good man with a wife and kids and that he was just approaching her a bit awkwardly,” according to the lawsuit.

The coach’s behavior became more intense as he added the student on the app SnapChat and began to comment of her body and sex life when he was alone with her, the lawsuit said.

During one of their conversations, the student alleged the coach went so far as to ask if she would “engage in oral sex with him for money, or if she would do so if he were younger or better-looking, or if he put plastic wrap between her and his face,” court documents said.

The student again reported the behavior to another school employee but was allegedly told to simply “keep an eye on it,” according to court documents.

The student began to experience “panic and fear” when walking through the school because she felt the coach was “always there,” documents said. After allegedly not receiving help from employees at the school after multiple complaints, she felt as though no adult teacher would help her.

As a result of her experience with the coach, the student suffered “extreme distress,” started going to therapy and changed her future plans, the lawsuit alleges.

The case now

The York County School Board filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on Dec. 23 because “the plaintiffs have not stated a claim up relief can be granted and have not alleged facts sufficient to state a cause of action,” according to court documents.

On Jan. 6, the two women, through their attorney, filed a rebuttal.

“The complaint does not allege that a person with the power to hire or fire [the defendant] had actual knowledge of [the defendant’s] conduct,” according to the lawsuit. “Rather, the Complaint alleges that an assistant coach, a coach and the athletic director had actual knowledge.”

“It is not necessary for the Complaint to descend into the particulars of what authority employees may have had to take remedial or corrective action that they did not take––– the School Board is in a much better position to know this information that the Plaintiff is, and discovery will establish that point.”

The women also argued the school board did not cite Virginia law and want to file the claim under Title IX.

It’s unclear if the coach was fired — the Bruton High School athletics’ website shows another coach’s name.

York County School Division spokeswoman Katherine Goff would only say the coach “is no longer employed by the York County School Division.”

He was employed at the division as a para educator and basketball coach from Nov. 29, 2017 to March 26, 2018.

Jimmy Richardson, chairman of the York County School Board, told a WYDaily reporter they would not comment because they were advised not to by their attorneys.

The attorneys for the school board were not immediately available for comment.

Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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