U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

School Escapes Liability for Sex Abuse Claim

Jane Doe is the name of countless victims of rape and sex abuse.

In Doe v. Madison Metropolitan School District, it's also the name of an eighth-grader who lost her case. The appeals court did not say whether Doe was actually abused, but did say the school was not liable even if something bad happened there.

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiff did not prove the school knew its security assistant was abusing the child. However, the court acknowledged that there were "cautionary flags."

'Cautionary Flags'

Willie Collins was a security assistant at Whitehorse Middle School in Madison, Wisconsin. He supervised lunch and recess, oversaw detention, and otherwise monitored the campus.

Jane Doe was a student there between 2011 and 2014, and had an openly friendly relationship with Collins. According to reports, the principal saw Collins regularly "hugging male and female students" and sometimes saw him rub their shoulders -- including Doe's.

One time, another school official saw the seventh grader try to kiss Collins on the cheek, but he resisted. The principal advised him to keep his distance.

After Doe graduated from Whitehorse, she told her cousin and mother that Collins had kissed, fondled and made sexual comments to her. She sued, but lost on a motion for summary judgment.

No School Liability

The Seventh Circuit struggled with the decision, but affirmed.

"The allegations in this case are troubling, to say the least," the appellate judges said.

But they agreed that Doe did not prove any school official had actual knowledge of the allegations, which was required under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Nobody really knew, except Doe and her alleged abuser.

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