A lawsuit filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court last Friday features some hefty allegations against the administrators and staff of a New York middle school. First reported by the New York Daily News, the lawsuit alleges that after a 13 year-old girl reported being raped, school officials dismissed her claims, telling her to "move on with your life."
"Nothing is more important than the safety of all students and staff, and we have clear policies in place to ensure incidents are reported, investigated and appropriately addressed," Education Department spokesman Doug Cohen tells Bustle regarding the lawsuit. "These deeply troubling allegations are the subject of an investigation, and we will take appropriate follow up action based on the findings."
The details contained in the lawsuit are exceptionally grim. According to the suit, the girl, who is now 17, says she was raped by another student back in 2015, when she was in the eighth grade. She was allegedly waiting for a bus two blocks away from Spring Creek Community School when her assailant forced her into the alley and raped her. He allegedly filmed the incident with his cell phone.
Several days later, the Daily News reports, the student, who has not been identified because of the nature of the case, approached her school to report the incident. According to the lawsuit, the girl specifically relayed the events to a school counselor, who responded, "if it happened, it happened — move on with your life."
"Children are not taught consent at school and administrators do not act lawfully or humanely when students — particularly girls of color — report sexual violence," Carrie Goldberg, the lawyer representing the alleged victim, told the Daily News. "It’s criminal when our kids go to school and come home raped, humiliated and told they aren’t welcome there anymore."
In the days after the alleged incident, video of the event reportedly circulated widely among the students. It was reportedly so widely shared that even administrators got their hands on the footage, including school principal Christina Koza.
The suit alleges that Koza spoke to the victim after viewing the video, expressing doubt that what she saw in the recording constituted actual rape. Koza allegedly told the student that the incident "looked consensual," according to the court filing. According to the school's website, Koza was Spring Creek's founding principal.
About a month after the alleged incident took place, the girl was reportedly moved to a different school. However, the Daily News reports that the shift didn't happen immediately. Before transferring, school administrators reportedly contacted local police, though according to the the lawsuit, the girl was too confused and intimidated to go through with pressing formal charges.
As this played out, Principal Koza allegedly advised the girl against coming back to school in the viral video's immediate aftermath. The suit reportedly claims that Koza advised the student to stay away while administrators got the situation "under control," and told her that her presence in the middle school would simply "make things worse." It's unclear what damages the lawsuit is seeking to recover.
On Twitter, Goldberg addressed coverage of the case, and compared it to a situation surrounding another client she successfully represented. "Got almost $1m for our last client -- this is our next case on the docket," Goldberg wrote. "Shockingly similar facts -- girl of color raped and punished by NYC DOE. Are anybody's kids safe at school???"
Goldberg is the founder of a law firm that specializes in representing victims involved in sexual assault cases. According to its website, the firm takes particular pride in representing victims associated with the Department of Education.