SCSD9 denies accusations of sexual abuse and retaliation

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SUBLETTE COUNTY – Big Piney school administrators flatly deny all accusations of sexual abuse and retaliation made by an anonymous former student and her parents in a federal civil rights case filed May 26.

In the lawsuit filed against Sublette County School District No. 9 officials, the former student – identified as “Jane Doe” with her father “James Doe” and her stepmother “Mary Doe” – claims that a teacher paid inappropriate sexual attention to her over several years, sexually assaulted her and ruined her chance for an equal education, it says.

It says that her father went to Big Piney High School Principal Jeff Makelky with his concerns about a history’s teacher’s “illegal” and “improper sexual conduct” toward his daughter and Makelky denied any inappropriate relationship.

The lawsuit also claims James and Mary Doe then spoke to former Superintendent and then-Title IX coordinator Steve Loyd with their concerns and about Makelky’s apparent inaction to remedy the inappropriate relationship. Loyd said he watched the teacher and Jane Doe working out and saw nothing inappropriate, it says.

Then, it continues, Loyd and Makelky – described as “connected to the teacher” in the Sept. 18 amended complaint – did not pursue a proper investigation and retaliated against the Does, denying their federal civil rights.

The suit names SCSD No. 9 Board of Trustees, Loyd, Makelky and John Smiths 1-5. The former Big Piney high school teacher was first identified as a “World History Teacher” or “W.H. Teacher” and “also the son of (high school) principal Jeff Makelky” in the lawsuit.

The teacher is not otherwise identified; John Smiths 1-5 are also not identified.

Denials

On behalf of SCSD9, attorney Tracy Copenhaver received the amended complaint filed in Wyoming’s U.S. District Court before Judge Alan B. Johnson.

On Sept. 27, the attorney submitted the defendants’ 25-page response, denying that Jane Doe’s Title IX rights were violated, that she endured a “hostile educational environment” or that she “was sexually assaulted and subjected to sexual abuse and harassment.”

The response also denies officials disregarded the Doe family’s requests for help or “failed to conduct a reasonable investigation into the reported assaults and harassment.” Officials also denied failure to properly train about sexual discrimination and sexual harassment.

Loyd and Makelky were “responsible for enforcing (district) policies and procedures regarding employee and teacher discipline, to include … prohibiting and remedying sexual assault and harassment,” it says.

It agrees that as Title IX coordinator, Loyd’s “responsibilities include the receiving of verbal and written reports of sexual assault and harassment and the investigation of these reports” as well as disciplining employees, staff and teachers.

They did not create any “informal” unequal policies; the board of trustees is the only entity with power to create policies.

However, nothing happened so there was nothing to report, according to the district’s reply.

The lawsuit’s timeline from September 2014 to late 2016 says the married teacher increased personal conversations and sexual attention eventually leading to “numerous sexual assaults.”

SCSD9 administrators “are without sufficient knowledge or knowledge from which to ascertain the truth of this allegation and it is therefore denied.”

Meetings denied

The reply denies James Doe talked to Makelky about his concerns of a teacher’s “inappropriate relationship with his daughter” and it further denies “Makelky denied the existence of an inappropriate relationship.”

It denies that James and Mary Doe spoke to Loyd about Makelky’s “refusal and failure to act.”

It does admit, “Loyd agreed to investigate whether (Jane Doe) and Teacher were spending too much time together.” He “looked into the matter and had no concerns (they) were spending too much time together … and followed up with what he discovered.”

The reply does not say with whom Loyd made that agreement.

Neither Loyd nor Makelky “were informed of a Title IX allegation,” Loyd “was not aware of a Title IX allegation” and officials “were not aware of an allegation of sexual assault or sexual harassment and therefore did not discuss it with (the Does),” it says.

“No investigation was made as to issues never reported,” it says.

More denials

SCSD9 denies that the Does suffered and will “continue to suffer great pain of mind and body, severe and permanent emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, humiliation and psychological injuries” or that Jane Doe “is prevented from performing normal daily activities… and will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy and counseling,” as the lawsuit claims.

It admits Loyd and Makelky were the two officials with “authority to address alleged harassment, discrimination and assault of students and institute corrective measures on the district’s behalf,” but denies SCSD9 knew of the allegations or were “deliberately indifferent.”

First claim

The district showed “post-report deliberate indifference in violation of Title IX,” according to the Doe family’s first claim for relief. The lawsuit claims that SCSD9 created and escalated “a hostile educational environment in violation of Title IX” due to “ongoing sexual harassment and retaliation” against Jane Doe.

The reply denies that she suffered or was “deprived of her educational opportunities,” or that administrators “were deliberately indifferent to acts of sexual harassment and sexual conduct on students by teachers when it failed to investigate reports,” as the lawsuit claims.

It denies that SCSD9’s “inaction foreseeably caused Jane Doe/ Plaintiff’s harasser and attacker to become emboldened and increase his harassment, sexual conduct and its own retaliation toward (the Does).”

Second claim

In response to the second claim of “retaliation in violation of Title IX” and prohibition of sexual discrimination in schools, the district admits reporting sexual assault and harassment to school officials is protected under Title IX.

The lawsuit claims after Jane Doe’s sexual harassment and abuse by a SCSD9 teacher was reported to SCSD9, all three faced ongoing retaliatory harassment by administrators, BPHS employees and community members.

However, the reply says administrators were never “aware of retaliatory harassment and therefore this allegation is denied.”

Third claim

The lawsuit’s third claim refers to “disparate treatment & impact, in violation of (Jane Doe’s) constitutional and federal rights” and seeks compensation.

The district admits Jane Doe has federal civil rights, denies that Title IX was “intended to benefit students like Jane Doe,” and admits the Does have mandated rights under Title IX.

It denies that SCSD9, Loyd, Makelky and John Smiths 1-5 “were policy makers and administrators having duties to create and implement policies and training and respond to reporting to them of Jane Doe’s sexual abuse.”

SCSD9 did not create policies depriving students’ rights or protections, nor did it maintain “informal policies” that result in different treatment of sexual assault victims “to include Jane Doe.”

“Defendants deny there are any informal policies, patterns or practices of behavior as alleged,” the reply says.

There were “no allegations of sexual harassment or teacher sexual misconduct to report.”

Fourth claim

The lawsuit claims the district, Loyd, Makelky and John Smiths were “policy makers and administrators having duties to train” investigate or remedy reports of sexual harassment and discrimination but failed.

“Defendants state that only the board of trustees are policy makers and assert that the (SCSD9) administrators were properly trained as per the requirements then in existence,” the reply says.

The district also denies that it accepts “hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal educational funding each year and in turn promises to comply with corresponding Title IX obligation,” as the suit claims.

Punitive

Calling the district’s acts and omissions “so gross and culpable that they constitute reckless disregard for the law and safety of SCSD, including all three plaintiffs,” the suit seeks punitive damages “to make an example of conduct that will not be tolerated.”

The administrators “deny that (the Does) are entitled to any punitive damages.”

‘Defenses’

The Does are “guilty of delay that has damaged and prejudiced (SCSD9’s) ability to defend the case,” and that its administrators are “entitled to some good faith immunity.”

The family failed to “promptly file claims and utilize administrative procedures” and is barred by the statute of limitations.

It asks Judge Johnson to rule for the district and order the Doe family to pay its attorney’s fees and costs.

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