Stop FCPS from Messing With Title IX at the SCOTUS. Schools Should Not Get One Free Rape!

Stop FCPS from Messing With Title IX at the SCOTUS. Schools Should Not Get One Free Rape!

23,383 have signed. Let’s get to 25,000!
Petition to
Fairfax County Public Schools Beverly Madeja and

Why this petition matters

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia has asked the Supreme Court of the United States to gut Title IX, one of the most important civil rights laws that protects students from sexual harassment and assault.

If FCPS wins, schools across America will get what one appeals judge has called “one free rape” before they have to investigate sexual assault at school. It will also allow school districts across the country to “bury their heads in the sand” rather than investigate reported sexual assaults.

We ask you to sign this petition, and demand that FCPS drop its appeal to the Supreme Court in Jane Doe v. FCSB.

We also demand that FCPS take sexual assault, and civil rights in schools, seriously. If FCPS continues to fail at this basic task, we call on the Attorney General of Virginia or the US Department of Justice to conduct a civil rights investigation into FCPS.

Fairfax County Public Schools has a problem with mishandling sexual harassment and assault in the school. In 2014, FCPS entered into a sweeping settlement with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The resolution required the school to totally revamp its policies and training around sexual assault after a 12-year-old was raped by multiple assailants at Rachel Carson Middle School.

Despite this, FCPS has entered into 13 subsequent civil rights settlements (!) with the Department of Education, including multiple regarding sexual harassment and assault. There are currently 3 additional open civil rights investigations into the district’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault and harassment.

That’s not all. In just the past two years, at least six school officials, including two principals, have been arrested for either abusing students or failing to report suspected child abuse. In recent years, the local media caught FCPS failing to revoke the teaching licenses of educators credibly accused of abusing students. This led to additional children getting molested. There are even several pages on social media where current students describe the current, toxic school environments where administrators overlook sexual violence against students.   

Perhaps most horrifyingly, FCPS admits, in a resolution, that sex traffickers have victimized students at every high school, and many middle and elementary schools. Yet this too, goes largely unaddressed. One survivor claimed she reported her abuse to a guidance counselor 22 times, but received no help. 

The numbers alone tell the story of just how bad the problem is. In its own flawed student-survey, FCPS students report no less than 3400 incidents of sexual harassment in school each year. At least 871, likely more, say that they have reported sexual harassment and assault to school officials. Yet FCPS reported less than 50 incidences of sexual harassment and assault to the Virginia Department of Education last, and only formally charged 20 students in an administrative hearing with sexual misconduct.  This low report rate, and even lower discipline rate is indicative of systemic problems.

When survivors do come forward, FCPS has a pattern of retaliation. For example, an FCPS principal cut girls from the Lake Braddock Secondary school basketball team when they complained about the coach’s sexual harassment. Superintendent Scott Braband, claimed there was a fair investigation and no retaliation, but the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights arguably found otherwise.

In another instance, FCPS filed a SLAAP (a meritless lawsuit designed to intimidate) against two parents who made a FOIA request after they felt their children were denied disability services ­– a judge dismissed FCPS's claims as "borderline frivolous." In fact, FCPS’s former head auditor sued the school district after she was allegedly fired for reporting certain misconduct to the school board. If FCPS fires its own auditor, imagine what it does to student-survivors!

Not surprisingly, FCPS has been sued multiple times in recent years for mishandling sexual harassment. Rather than changing its practice, FCPS has hired the law firm Hunton Andrews, the successor of the firm that fought against de-segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. Hunton Andrew lawyers—Stuart Raphael, Elbert Lin, Ryan Bates, Sona Rewari, Perie Reiko Koyama, and Kelly Oeltjenbruns—have billed taxpayers millions of dollars trying to rollback the rights of survivors.

For example, in one recent appeal, FCPS tried to throw out a 12-year-old rape survivor’s lawsuit because she filed as a “jane doe” plaintiff rather than using her real name. FCPS also tried to argue that schools were exempt from Virginia’s 20 year statute of limitations for claims arising from child sex abuse. A federal appeals court rejected FCPS’s arguments.

In the case at issue, Doe v. FCSB, a student at Oakton High school alleged she was sexual assaulted on a school field trip. When she reported her assault, the school did virtually nothing, with the principal joking about her the assault in email, saying “one time at band camp,” a reference to the comedy movie American Pie. Then, when the student sued, a federal judge sanctioned FCPS for destroying documents.

FCPS tried to argue in a federal appeal that it had no obligation to act because it did not “know” about sexual harassment.  Even though the student reported, FCPS argued, it had no obligation to investigate because it did not know for sure if the assault occurred. This argument defies logic—how can a school refuse to investigate a reported sexual assault and then claim it lacks knowledge? The National Women’s Law Center claimed that this approach would incentivize schools to bury its head in the sand.

Second, FCPS argued that, in any event, it had no obligation to act because the student was not subsequently raped again. An appeals court rejected both arguments, saying that FCPS was asking for schools to get “one free rape.”

Unhappy with this ruling, FCPS now wants to the Supreme Court to review Title IX. If the school district wins, schools will be able to bury their heads in the sand when someone reports sexual assault. Even then, the school will be absolved of any responsibility to act or investigate, so long as the student is not subsequently raped again.

Such a ruling would gut Title IX, making an already weak law entirely toothless. Making matters worse, FCPS is spending millions of taxpayer dollars bankrolling this appeal.

Enough is enough. We the citizens demand that FCPS withdraw the baseless appeal in Doe v. FCSB and appropriately respond to sexual assault in school. If FCPS continues its culture of cover-up and indifference, we ask the Virginia attorney general or the Department of Justice to open a civil rights investigation into FCPS and bring accountability once and for all.

All students have the right to a safe and equal education free of discrimination, harassment, and violence. That’s all we ultimately ask.

Shatter the Silence Fairfax County Public Schools is a volunteer-run, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded by survivors, parents, and students of Fairfax County Public Schools. We seek to raise awareness, and demand accountability, about civil rights violations that occur in FCPS. Visit our website, or follow us on twitter @ShatterFCPS to learn more.  




23,383 have signed. Let’s get to 25,000!