NEW YORK (WKBW) — New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Wednesday a lawsuit has been filed against the Niagara Wheatfield Central School District (NWCSD) for allegedly failing to protect students from sexual assault.
According to James, an investigation into the district by the Office of the Attorney General began in 2019 and it allegedly found:
- NWCSD deliberately ignored student complaints of rape, assault, sexual harassment, and gender-based bullying.
- NWCSD took no action to protect them from their assailants and harassers, leading several students to drop out of school and lose access to educational opportunities.
The Office of the Attorney General says the lawsuit seeks oversight, monitoring and new procedures for the school district and its schools to better address the handling of sexual assault.
It is unconscionable that an institution tasked with educating and protecting its students turned a blind eye to the abuse, harassment, and bullying happening right in its school halls. The NWCSD’s inaction demonstrates that it did not have adequate systems in place to protect its students — particularly young women — when they needed it most. This indifference to student suffering has caused physical, mental, and emotional trauma, and jeopardized students’ education. My office remains committed to standing against sexual assault of any kind, anywhere, and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all New Yorkers. I will continue to use the law to hold the school district accountable for its negligence, and to empower survivors of sexual harassment and assault.
According to a release, the investigation into NWCSD began after the report that the district did nothing in response to the rape of a student by a fellow student in May 2018. The mother of the victim questioned why the male student accused of sexually assaulting her daughter was allowed to return to school for the year after. He was then expelled in May 2019.
The victim’s mother says she repeatedly tried to speak with the principal of Niagara Wheatfiled about why he was allowed to return, but said her questions and her pleas quote, "fell on deaf ears." She told reporters she was "sadden" and "appalled" with how the district handled the entire situation. The victim sat down with 7 Eyewitness News Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley and shared her story.
The male student pleaded guilty to the rape in May 2019, he was sentenced to one year probation in August 2019.
The Office of the Attorney General says the investigation found in the last several years there have been more than 30 documented incidents of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, or gender-based bullying at NWCSD.
"NWCSD never created a single written safety plan, nor took any documented effort to keep students safe following these reports of rape, physical or sexual assault, or harassment. As a direct result of the hostile environment cultivated by NWCSD, at least two students dropped out of school," a release says.
You can view the lawsuit here.