BYFIELD — Less than two months after being expelled from Governor’s Academy, a former student and his family have filed a lawsuit against the prestigious private school, claiming officials failed to give him due process as promised in the playbook of the student.
The student was banned from boarding school on December 16, about a month after a female student reported to authorities that he had had sex with her without permission at a July 4th party fueled by the alcohol in New Hampshire last summer.
The 27-page lawsuit, filed Monday in Salem Superior Court, not only claims that the school violated its own student handbook while investigating the girl’s claim, but that it is also guilty of sex discrimination by believing her version of events over his own. The names of the plaintiff and his family, as well as the student, were all concealed by John Doe-type aliases.
The plaintiff was entering his senior year at the time of the party and had never been disciplined by the school prior to his expulsion. He was kicked off campus following the girl’s complaint, according to the lawsuit. It is not known how old the girl was at the time of the party.
“In making its final decision, the school engaged in disparate treatment of (the complainant) based on his gender. Among other things, it did so by banning him from campus based solely on the complaint (of the girl) – a decision that was based at least in part on the stereotype that men are inherently sexual aggressors,” the lawsuit read.
If a judge or jury finds in favor of the former pupil, he and his family ask to be allowed to return to school, his disciplinary record expunged and that they receive “compensatory and punitive damages”.
As a result of the school’s action, according to the lawsuit, the former student and his parents suffered and will continue to suffer “serious harm.”
“It is the school’s policy to notify all colleges to which a student has applied of the disciplinary findings within 10 days, leaving (the complainant) no choice but to withdraw their college applications for the 2022 academic year- 2023,” the lawsuit states. “The decision therefore cost (the plaintiff) not only the end of his studies at school, but his planned enrollment in college next year. The decision caused (the plaintiff) loss of future educational opportunities, loss of employment and other economic opportunities, damage to reputation, and emotional distress and anguish. »
Governor’s Academy spokesperson Lindsay Batastini declined to discuss the lawsuit, saying the school does not comment on ongoing litigation.
“The Governor’s Academy takes its responsibility to combat sexual misconduct seriously. We have clear policies for investigating allegations of sexual misconduct and for disciplining students. The academy is known as a caring and nurturing community, and the health and safety of our students is our top priority. We respect the privacy of those involved in the incident and will not release further details,” Batastini wrote in an email, adding that the school’s student handbook is not public information. .
The attorney who filed the suit in court, Jeffrey Pyle of Boston, also declined to comment.
“The lawsuit speaks for itself,” Pyle said in a phone call.
It is not known whether any criminal charges have been filed in connection with the trial. The lawsuit does not mention where in New Hampshire the party took place, and Newbury Police Chief John Lucey Jr. said his department was “not investigating anything of this nature.”
Private schools have much more leeway when it comes to establishing grounds for expelling students or inflicting disciplinary action compared to taxpayer-funded public schools.
In addition to claiming the school failed to follow its student handbook during its investigation, the lawsuit claims the school received money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
The PPP was launched during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic to keep businesses and institutions afloat amid mass layoffs and closures. If it receives federal money, the lawsuit insinuates, but does not directly claim, the school is now required to follow federal Title IX guidelines in terms of investigating sexual harassment complaints.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
The Governor’s Academy received a $2.74 million PPP loan from TD Bank through the Small Business Association on April 12, 2020. According to government records, the loan was “paid off in full or forfeited” with the final outlay. updated recorded in July.
The timing of the status update suggests, but does not confirm, that the school repaid or had the loan canceled before the party in July that ultimately led to the filing of the lawsuit.
But receiving a federal loan, regardless of when it’s repaid or canceled, doesn’t necessarily exempt a private school from meeting Title IX requirements and could make a compelling case in front of a judge, according to local attorney Nicole Reilly.
The US Department of Education states that private schools that do not receive federal assistance are exempt from Title IX requirements.
Dave Rogers is a reporter for the Daily News in Newburyport. Email him at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.