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SFUSD reaches $325K settlement over handling of student sexual assault

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A student who graduated from Galileo High School filed a lawsuit against the school district for not doing enough to keep an alleged sexual abuser away from her. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)
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A former high school student who administrators neglected to separate from her alleged sexual abuser and classmate has reached a settlement with the San Francisco Unified School District, according to court records.

The Galileo High School graduate filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the SFUSD last June when she was 17 years old, alleging that the district failed to enforce a restraining order against a student who groped her repeatedly in the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

“It was very painful for her,” said Jalle Dafa, her attorney. “She does not have positive memories about high school.”

District spokesperson Gentle Blythe confirmed Friday that the school district settled for $325,000.

“The initial response from the school site was inadequate,” Blythe said in an email. “When it came to the district’s attention, we immediately investigated and remedied it.”

The former student, whose name is undisclosed in the lawsuit, filed a restraining order against the male student after he stuck his hand down her pants and up her shirt repeatedly during the 2013-14 school year.

While the district expelled him from Galileo, he was allowed to enroll the next semester at Mission High School, where he participated in the JROTC program.

There are just seven JROTC programs in the district and all of them participate in about 20 events and competitions a semester, according to the lawsuit. With no plan in place to split them up, the victim ended up seeing her alleged attacker on multiple occasions and JROTC instructors just told her she could leave if she was uncomfortable, according to her attorney.

“She was re-triggered every time she saw him,” Dafa said, adding that her client was discouraged from participating in the JROTC program.

In 2015, Michael Reimer took over as principal of Galileo.

According to the lawsuit, Reimer tried to put a plan in place to separate the victim from the male student in JROTC events but ended up prohibiting her from attending the major events, scheduling them instead for the male student.

Dafa said Reimer stripped “her of her rights to keep her safe.”

In February 2016, the student filed a Title IX lawsuit with the district that later concluded that Galileo’s actions “‘were discriminatory in nature and prevented [the student] from participating in JROTC.’”

The Office for Civil Rights opened a federal Title IX investigation into the school district in April 2016, which is still ongoing, according to Dafa.

In an interview Thursday, Dafa recalled a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “The pedestal upon which women have been placed has all too often, upon closer inspection, been revealed as a cage.”

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