The anonymous student, called Jane Doe in her complaint, was at Warren, Michigan’s Paul K. Cousino High School when her 18-year-old attacker allegedly forced her to perform oral sex on him in his car. Her lawsuit filed in a federal court on Monday claims the school district discriminated against her by allegedly dismissing her sexual assault report, giving her attacker preferential treatment and accepting his claims that the sex act was consensual despite Doe being under the age of consent. Her alleged attacker, called John Roe in the suit, went on to graduate and go to college, while Doe was expelled for sexual misconduct, derailing her academic career, her lawyers said.
“Even if you take away the sexual assault element, which is important, what you have left is two students consensually engaging in sexual activity in a parking lot, one a senior and one a freshman,” Doe’s attorney Julie Porter told The Daily Beast. “One a girl and one a boy. It is completely inappropriate for the school to discipline just the 15-year-old girl and not the 18-year-old boy. And that’s just assuming it’s consensual. Here she clearly told the school that it was not consensual.”
Neither the assistant principal nor any school representative returned a request for comment on Tuesday.
Doe was at her locker the morning of May 13, 2015, when she saw Roe approach with a friend. Roe was a senior, but he and Doe were friendly, sometimes talking on social media, Doe’s lawsuit reads. Roe invited her out to his car before first period began, she said.
“I had shut my locker, started walking with him. He said let’s go to my car to chill. Never did I think anything sexual was bound to happen,” reads a witness testimony the girl gave to school officials.
But when Doe sat down in the backseat, Roe allegedly followed her inside and locked the door. He appeared to be texting someone, Doe said. Then he allegedly demanded oral sex from her.
“He said to me ‘I’m hard.’ I was like shocked, weirded out,” Doe wrote in her testimony. “Well he unbuckled his pants, he said ‘you know what to do.’ I’m in shock. He said exactly, ‘suck my dick.’”
Doe said she complied initially while Roe began putting his hands under her clothing. Then she told him to stop.
“I said stop this is gross, nasty,” Doe wrote. “He said ‘oh well,’ took his left hand, put it on the back of my head and put my mouth on his penis. And pushed it to move faster. I eventually was able to remove his hand with my right hand and said I’m done. I exited the vehicle and checked in” to school.
After the alleged assault, she spent the school day confused and angry, believing herself to have frozen up when the attack began. She did not tell authorities about the attack until two days later, when school officials confronted her about the incident. But instead of treating Doe as a victim, they threatened her with expulsion, her suit says.
The school’s assistant principal called Doe to the office on May 15 and informed her of “rumors about Jane Doe and John Roe,” the suit reads. The assistant principal allegedly asked if the rumors and “said that the school had video proof that Jane Doe left the building during school hours.”
Doe allegedly explained that the incident had been non-consensual. But instead of inquiring into Doe’s well-being or connecting her with the school’s Title IX coordinator, the assistant principal allegedly shamed Doe for her clothing, “intimating that Jane Doe invited unwanted sexual attention because of the way she dressed,” the lawsuit reads. The assistant principal and a school counselor allegedly questioned her without allowing her to speak with parents, and asked her to submit a statement on the attack. Only after Doe submitted her testimony did the assistant principal call Doe’s mother and inform her that Doe could not return to school, the lawsuit alleges.
Meanwhile, Roe allegedly received entirely different treatment. A standout athlete on the school’s football, basketball, and track teams, Roe was allegedly allowed to compete in a track meet on May 15, the same day Doe was questioned and threatened with expulsion. Four days later, the school asked him for his account of the incident, which he described as consensual and planned in advance. Michigan’s age of consent is 16, making the 15-year-old Doe too young to legally consent to Roe, who was an adult.
That testimony was enough to begin expulsion proceedings against Doe, who was expelled in June.
“As I understand it, the school expelled her for engaging in sexual activity in a time when she was supposed to be in class,” Porter said.
But Roe, who admitted to the sex act and described it as consensual, was not expelled, the lawsuit says.
“Our understanding is that the only action taken against the man was that he was not permitted to walk across the stage at graduation but still received his diploma,” Porter said.
When Doe appealed the decision, panelists at her hearing allegedly asked her questions like “do you feel remorseful for your actions?” Before ruling to uphold Doe’s expulsion, one panelist told her not to “let this incident define you.”
Unlike Roe, who was allowed to graduate with all his credits, Doe said she lost her school credits for that semester, and needed to find a new school for the following school year. She spent her sophomore year taking online classes. When her family moved to another district for her junior year, Doe learned that she did not have enough credits to enroll, and was forced to attend an alternative school, which many students attended due to behavioral issues. As of the lawsuit’s Feb. 6 filing, Doe was still taking courses online, cut off from her former classmates, Porter said.
“She clearly told the school that it was not consensual, that he sexualy assaulted her,” Porter said. “The school had responsibilities to follow up on that and investigate. Instead they shamed her, they criticized her, and they expelled her.”