High School Protects Basketball Star at the Expense of his Rape Victims

In another echo of the tragic high school rape story from Steubenville, Ohio, the National Women’s Law Center last week filed a complaint in federal district court on behalf of a female high school student in Michigan, who was allegedly sexually assaulted in a soundproof band room by a male student.

Acting with a great deal of courage, the young woman told a teacher at Forest Hills Central High School, near Grand Rapids, what had happened, and the teacher in turn reported the assault to the principal.

And, in an exact analogy with some of the media reaction to the Steubenville case, the principal showed his sympathy for the victim not by opening an investigation, but by discouraging her and her parents from filing charges, telling them that doing so could hurt the boy’s chances of being recruited to play for a Division 1 school to play basketball.

Way to go, Mr. Principal. You put boys ahead of girls, cowardice ahead of bravery, violence ahead of human dignity. How dare you call yourself the leader of a group of young people, when those are your values?

Schools are legally in loco parentis while students are in attendance. Parents entrust their youngsters to schools, expecting schools to provide protection. What went wrong here?

From Alternet:

As alleged in the complaint, two weeks later another female student was sexually assaulted by the same attacker. Despite a legal obligation under Title IX to investigate the assault and protect the student, the high school officials never interviewed the girl or her parents again, failed to conduct an investigation, and for two and a half weeks left the attacker in one of her classes.

However, this young woman has very supportive parents, and together they ignored the principal’s request not to file charges, and instead went to the police. The Kent County Sheriff’s Department came through where Forest Hils Central High did not, and they began a criminal investigation.

Still, the story goes from ugly to uglier: while the school administration did absolutely nothing, news of the assault spread throughout the high school, and the victim was harassed by fellow students calling her a whore and a liar, and even by the assailant and his friends. She also became the target of some vicious cyberbullying, but even when her parents reported this, the administration still took no action.

A statement from the National Women’s Law Center reads:

The school’s failure to address the harassment sends a chilling message to students that they should remain silent in the face of sexual assault and cannot count on their school to provide a safe learning environment.

This is an important message. Teachers, administrators, and especially coaches, knew what was going on, but nobody did anything. Once again, just like in Steubenville, we have an example of the victim-blaming rape culture that values sports stars over rape victims.

Both girls and boys need to talk about rape, and schools need to encourage them to speak up. It’s not enough to teach girls about consent, and how not to encourage boys. Boys as well as girls need education. This topic needs to be out in the open, so that the ‘rape culture’ can be exposed and eradicated.

There have been too many stories like this recently, and they won’t stop until all of us: schools, teachers, parents, youth leaders and religious groups, decide to bring the issue of rape out into the open.

Just two weeks ago I wrote about 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons from Canada; then there was 15-year-old Audrie Pott from California; both these young women committed suicide after their classmates bullied them after photos of their rapes emerged online.

We need to educate our young people, boys and girls, to prevent yet another suicide.


Care2 Related Coverage

Steubenville Rapists Convicted, But Damage Is Done

17-Yr-Old Girl Kills Self After Rape Photo Goes Viral

15-Year-Old Jadin Bell, Targeted By Bullies, Is Dead


Photo Credit: thinkstock


Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado4 years ago


C. Kershner
C. Kershner4 years ago

Con't : of the class, showed my parents the disgusting notes these"boys" sent me (and yes this was before social media and the internet). Nothing was done. I still carry emotional scars, but I have also moved on. So to end this very long post, my question is: What are you personally going to stop this? Attend a rally, sign a petition, etc.? Until each and every one of us takes a public stand and shows the world that rape, sexual harrassment, bullying in any form, etc.. will not be tolerated it will continue!

C. Kershner
C. Kershner4 years ago

As I read all the comments about how wrong this is and how those that perpetrated the crime including the Principal should be held accountable, my htought turned to how pervasive this idea that rape is okay and its culture is alive and well in this country as well in this world! I kept reading about how this needs to change, but did not read or see 1 idea of how to stop the tide of rape culture and its traumatizing effects. I saw blame of parents, blame of schools, blame of the entertainment industry which includes professional athletics, and very minutely blame for society in general fo continuing to allow this reprehensible behavior to continue. My question to all on this site and other social media What are you personally going to do to start the change in our global society to irradicate rape culture and this patriarcal (sp?) belief system? Remember, 1 person can make a difference but only if we decide that we are willing to stand up and demand that it change! How do you plan to make your beliefs and moral and values known so that women know that they can count on all persons to protect them? How do we as a global community ensure that these crimes will not be tolerated? Through petitions, rallies, etc...? Rape is not this only crime that happens where the victims do not speak up. While in High School (Catholic High School to boot) I was sexually harrassed by a gorup of "boys" who thought it would be funny to pick on a quiet shy girl. I tried to tell the teacher of the c

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se4 years ago

It mirror how the world still works, but it changes more and more in the right direction.......

Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert4 years ago

It's as much a reflection of the worship of the sports culture as it is the rape culture. Both have to go and quickly. There are professional athletes who make millions who have had rapes covered up just because they are rich.

Jennifer Kopp
Jennifer Evans4 years ago

Disgusting! The principal, the school administration, the basketball player, and the ignorant bullies are nothing but bottom feeding scum.

Jen S.
Jen S4 years ago

This is beyond any justification; not charge this miserable thug becasue he plays BASKETBALL? The actions of the principal and coach(es) transcend reprehensible, even if not subject to prosecution. These 'educators', and I use the term loosely as an educator myself, aren't fit to work among any young adult. Were I the girl's parents, I would find the most intelligent, aggressive litigating attorney, to file suit against the school system, the school board, every adult party to this disgusting travesty, and her rapist...and I would take no prisoners. Not because the money will address this young woman's trauma-it won't; she will live with this for the rest of her life. If it costs the schools who fail to provide a safe place and a culture of learning, not violence and athletics at all costs, if a few athletes can't play Division 1 becasue of rape conviction, if enough Neanderthals whos shouldn't even be in the schools suffer significant financial losses and perhaps are unable to inflict this on another young woman they fail, the situation might change. This is infuriating.

Annette Harvill
Annette Harvill4 years ago

That being noted: The adults in the school did not listen, which is so often the case in rape cases. People do not want to hear about rape, or any form of abuse: They prefer to sweep it under the table, or let it be "The blue elephant in the room," which no one sees, except the victim. Why this keeps going on, I fail to understand, unless one abuser teaches another abuser, so the cycle continues. The abused sometimes becomes the abuser. I am not writing about the women who were raped, but the rapists. It seems easier for adults to turn a blind eye than to look at the truth, the brutal, ugly truth. It disturbs the beauty in their life, I guess. We hear about people dying every day, and turn a blind eye. Not until it affects our own lives do we normally do something about it. I hope we will start to change this, although it has been going on for thousands of years. I do believe that we can make a difference, one person at a time. We must for this world to survive. Do one good thing today, and I will, too.

Annette Harvill
Annette Harvill4 years ago

A large part of the problem in our society is not with the children, or young adults, it is with the adults, and/or parents. Teaching starts in the home. We used to have a community who cared for one another. We knew our neighbors: We took care of each other. This has been lost in today's fast-paced society. We, as adults, have to set the example for our children, teaching them what is acceptable, and what is not. With changing families, fast-paced lives, we find this more and more difficult to do, but the fact is: We must communicate with our children to help them lead productive lives. It has to start with us, with you, with me.

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia4 years ago

This is nonsense!