Parents of a 12-year-old girl who attended Kellenberg, a Catholic school in Uniondale, say their daughter was harassed and sexually assaulted and are angry that the school failed to take the appropriate actions to protect their daughter. In fact, the parents categorized the schools’ response as “disgraceful, disappointing and disgusting.”
According to the victim’s parents, the young girl was harassed for weeks, both online and in school, by some of her classmates. In February, the harassment escalated when two of the boys cornered her in a school stairway and began to forcibly grope her.
These assaults continued for several weeks until the girl was finally able to tell a teacher what was happening to her.
The school responded by suspending the two seventh-grade boys for two days, a punishment which has outraged the girl’s parents. The school called the suspension “significant disciplinary actions” and the school’s handbook says the institution has a zero tolerance for bullying. The handbook also says that “any offense in this regard will be treated in the severest terms.”
The school says it cannot comment on the case because those involved are minors. The victim is now attending another school. Her parents did speak to the Nassau police but decided that filing charges would be too much of an emotional ordeal for their daughter.
However, the district attorney’s office (who cannot address the case because of the ages of the students) has referred the case to the county attorney.
Under Title IX, the federal law that covers gender equity in education, any school that receives federal funding is required to protect students from gender-based harassment and violence. This includes sexual assault. There has been an alarming spike in these cases.
The number of average monthly lower-education investigations opened by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has quadrupled in a two-year period.
The issue, in this case, is that Kellenberg is a private school and does not receive federal funding, making them exempt from this law.
In a discussion regarding the Kellenberg case, personal injury attorney Neal Goldstein stated, “Unfortunately, although many schools claim to take a zero-tolerance stance on harassment and sexual assault, many of them fail to follow through. In situations where the school does do its job and takes reasonable actions swiftly and immediately, a victim may not have a case. However, if this was a continuing pattern of behavior by the perpetrator or perpetrators that the school was aware of, and they failed to act appropriately, a victim may be able to file suit against the school.”