A Brooklyn attorney, Carrie Goldberg, has asked the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice to open a joint investigation into the New York City Department of Education, alleging an “epidemic” of administrative malpractice when it comes to sex crimes in city schools.
Goldberg, whose firm specializes in internet abuse and sexual consent, represents at least three victims of sexual assault who all wound up “formally or informally suspended” by their Brooklyn public schools. All three victims were economically disadvantaged black girls, ranging from 13 to 15 years old.
“It is our strong belief that these incidents are indicative of institutionalized deliberate indifference to the needs of black female victims of sexual assault ‘educated’ by the New York City Department of Education,” she wrote to the federal education department in a letter provided to Gawker.
Once is an aberration. Twice is a coincidence. Third time is a pattern and practice.— Carrie A. Goldberg (@cagoldberglaw) June 7, 2016
A complaint Goldberg filed in November is currently being investigated by the federal education department’s Office for Civil Rights, the New York Times reports. Earlier this month, Goldberg filed two more complaints in a matter of days.
In one instance, our client was simply told to stay away from her school after a video of her being raped by a classmate went viral around the school—a de facto, if unofficial, suspension. In another, a tenth grader with an IQ of 71 was suspended after a school official decided that the gang rape in the stairwell was actually consensual sex. In the instant case, our client took a brave stand by refusing to attend a school that the NYC DOE would not make safe for her. Her school refused our client’s request to attend lunch, gym, and music class free from the leering gaze of the teenage boy who sexually assaulted her and had a history of sexual violence against other girls in the school. And when she tried to find an alternative school, it took months for her to be placed and she was literally made to do a “song and dance” at one point. Meanwhile, NYC DOE was threatening her mother with educational negligence if she did not return our client to school with her sexual assailant.
A spokeswoman for the city DOE said that school staff received training from the department on how to report sexual assaults. “Our legal team is reviewing these deeply troubling complaints and will respond to the Office for Civil Rights regarding any pending matters,” the spokeswoman, Devora Kaye, told the New York Times.
“Nothing is more important than the safety of all students and staff, and we have policies in place that ensure that incidents are reported, investigated and appropriately addressed,” Kaye continued. However, according to its website, the NYC DOE currently lacks a Title IX coordinator, responsible for ensuring compliance with the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Previously, the department had only one coordinator for 1.1 million students and staff.
“Whether by official act or omission the end result is that the sexual assault victims suffer twice in NYC DOE,” Goldberg wrote in one complaint: “Once at the hands of the individual that attacked them, and again under the heel of a bureaucracy that is required to act in their best interest.”