PC Schools defending two Federal lawsuits

April 27, 2019 | Courts|Featured|Headlines

OKLAHOMA CITY — Two Federal lawsuits are pending against the Ponca City School District in Western District Court, both alleging the district has violated Title IX.

The first suit, filed on Dec. 17, 2018, alleges a 14-year-old boy was sexually assaulted while attending a basketball camp in Jenks.

The second one, filed on Feb. 21, alleges a 13-year-old West Middle School was harassed at school by a 15-year-old who is accused of raping her off of school grounds. The suit also alleges that Title IX was violated by staff. Both families are represented by attorney Paige Lee.

In the first suit, the alleged victim’s mother, claims her son was sexually abused by two students at a basketball camp held in Jenks on June 22-24, 2017.

The boys were part of a group of 11 from the Ponca City School District who attended.

The alleged victim claims that on June 23 he was violently and forcibly sexually assaulted in a hotel room by two teens, who were ages 17 and 18 at the time. The boy claims that when he exited a shower, wearing a towel, he was forced to the ground, held down by one, and sexually assaulted by the other.
It is alleged that two other boys were also assaulted by the pair on the trip.

The alleged victim’s mother states that officials including Basketball coach Keenan Curry, Principal Thad Dilbeck, Ponca City police officer Manny Lara, and Athletic Director Jared Freeman were notified of the incident.

According to court documents, Dilbeck reportedly said there would not be “drastic action” taken against the pair until an investigation was complete. The pair were later suspended for 10 days and no longer allowed to participate in sports.
It is noted that the Jenks Police Department launched a criminal investigation on June 27, 2017 but reportedly did not conduct interviews with any of the alleged victims or witnesses and on July 11, 2017, ruled the case was cleared.
The boy’s mother contends that harassment of her son continued at school by the alleged perpetrators and their friends.

The lawsuit is comprised of 10 counts that include alleged violations of Title IX such as creating a hostile environment; Failure to train and supervise as to response to sexual assault and violation of due process and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Current superintendent Shelly Arrott, former superintendent David Pennington, Title IX coordinator, Bret Smith, Dilbeck, members of the school board and the two boys accused of the assault are named as defendants.

Attorneys for the district filed an answer to the allegations on Jan. 29 denying many of the claims and pointing out that the alleged victim was not enrolled as a student at the time of the reported incident and did not attend classes at the high school prior to his freshman year that began in August of 2017.

On Feb. 9, an amended claim was filed.
The amended information claims that the principal stated he would not initiate a Title IX investigation into the matter when notified because “Title IX does not apply to boy on boy abuse.”

On Feb. 15, one of the boys accused of the assault, filed an answer to the complaint stating that he does not believe anyone was damaged in the case and that he does not believe there are any damages recoverable by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s family. On April 19 the case was assigned to Honorable Patrick R. Wyrick.
No court dates are set in the case and a jury trial is demanded.

In the second suit, a father alleges his 13-year-old daughter was raped by a 15-year-old boy on Dec. 23, 2018.
The alleged crime did not happen on school grounds but both involved are West Middle School students and police were notified.

Court documents show that the girl was interviewed by police and that WMS principal Trenton Murner and assistant principal Jennifer Dye, were contacted.

The teen returned to school on Jan. 8 and was reportedly approached by students who accused of her of spreading rumors and told her to kill herself.

The child’s father reports the teen came home inconsolable and that he contacted school officials and was reportedly told by assistant principal Dye that there were no options to take to protect her. She also reportedly recommended home schooling the teen.
Reportedly teachers did escort the girl to classes for two days before deciding she could walk the halls by herself.

On Jan. 14 the teen was reportedly physically assaulted by the alleged rapist on school grounds and the incident caught on video. School officials advised the father that they would change the pair’s lunch hours. They then discovered the pair did not have the same lunch time. The lawsuit alleges that school officials “conducted no investigation”
The teen has since withdrawn from the school.
Dye, Murner, Arrott and Smith are listed as defendants and allegations of Title IX violations are raised.

On March 15 attorneys Frederick Hegenbart, Jerry Richardson, and Adam Breipohl entered appearances on behalf of the school district and entered a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the plaintiff filed suit using the fictitious name John Doe. On March 18 the plaintiff filed an amended complaint using his name.
On March 19 the court ruled on the motion to dismiss as moot.
On April 1 attorneys for the school district filed a motion to dismiss the claims against officials in their individual capacities and also filed an answer to the amended complaint and demanded a jury trial.

On April 2 the plaintiff filed a response to the motion to dismiss stating that there is no objection to the dismissal of the claims that are cumulative as to both the individual defendants in their official capacities.