Richards v. Williamson County Board of Education
This was a Title IX sex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of Dallas Richards, who stopped attending a public high school in Williamson County, Tennessee, because school officials failed to take appropriate steps to protect her from sexual harassment by a male student.
In 2013, while Ms. Richards was a senior at Independence High School, she was physically and sexually assaulted several times by M.A., a student with a history of violent behavior who was required to be supervised at all times by a faculty member or aide, pursuant to his Individualized Education Program. Prior to enrolling M.A. at the high school for the 2012-13 academic year, a law enforcement officer advised school officials that M.A. posed a safety risk to students. M.A. allegedly had been expelled from a previous private school for sexually harassing female students. Prior to that, while attending a middle school in the district, he allegedly had violently attacked both female and male students. The school board was aware of M.A.’s history before he sexually harassed and assaulted Ms. Richards.
Ms. Richards reported the sexual harassment and assaults to several coaches. She also told her parents, who then met with the school’s principal, assistant principal, and special needs counselor. The parents expressed their concerns about the multiple attacks on their daughter and the school’s lack of supervision for M.A. Although the school suspended him from school for five days for sexually assaulting Ms. Richards, he continued to walk the school’s halls unsupervised and verbally harassed Ms. Richards when he returned to school. Despite Ms. Richards and her parents’ complaints about this, the school took no action to protect Ms. Richards from the continuing harassment or to ensure that M.A. was supervised. Ms. Richards was so traumatized by the attacks and the continuing harassment that she was unable to remain in that school.
Public Justice was co-counsel for Ms. Richards in a federal lawsuit against Williamson County Board of Education that alleged violations of Title IX, a statute prohibiting sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funds.
The case settled in June 2015, when Ms. Richards accepted the school board’s $100,000 offer of judgment.
- Adele Kimmel
Larry Crain of Carin, Schuette & Associates, LLC
Brian Coleman and Richard Lomuscio of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP