The Huntington school district has published its response to a lawsuit filed earlier this year regarding allegations of hazing.
The lawsuit was filed Aug. 6 by an individual under the pseudonym John Doe I on behalf of a former student, under the pseudonym John Doe II, who the lawsuit states was sexually assaulted by another student during his freshman year.
The suit alleges the Huntington school district had a culture of tolerance for bullying and hazing, particularly among student athletes, and even made references to incidents throughout the 2018 school year in which students would haze and sexually assault other students. It also noted the effect it had on the victim student.
The lawsuit seeks to hold the district liable under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which prevents anyone from being excluded in participation, denied the benefits of or subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. According to the lawsuit, HISD failed to take action as needed.
In its response, the school district denied violating the plaintiff’s rights, denied the plaintiff being entitled to relief and denied the allegations made in the lawsuit. HISD insisted the burden of proving the allegations levied at the school district is on the plaintiff and not the district.
In its defense, HISD stated the plaintiff failed to state a claim for which relief may be granted, that the plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie case of harassment or discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and that the plaintiff has not suffered damages, and to the extent stated otherwise, the plaintiff failed to mitigate such damages.
Additionally, the district asserted its right to raise additional defenses should they become apparent through the development of the case.
The district ended its answer to the complaint by requesting the claims be dismissed with prejudice, that the school district recover its costs, expenses and reasonable attorney fees, and that the school be granted other relief to which it may be entitled.
The school district filed its answer to the complaint on Sept. 3.
Prior to the lawsuit being filed, HISD Superintendent David Flowers said a student came forward on Jan. 24 with accusations that high school baseball players had sexually abused him as part of an initiation. The criminal case of the adult students accused in the incident has yet to have a trial date set.