Boy on Gunn robotics team says he was bullied by female teammate

Gunn High School, 780 Arastradero Road. PAUSD photo.

This story first appeared in the Post on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Daily Post Staff Writer

A 16-year-old boy accused of sexually assaulting, then repeatedly harassing his teammate on the Gunn High School robotics team — leading to a court battle over his membership on the team — is now claiming that the girl has bullied him.

In a declaration filed yesterday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, the boy’s mother claims that the 16-year-old girl has “engaged in a campaign of harassing and humiliating” her son, “clearly showing that she is not intimidated by him and seeks to exclude him from (the robotics team) to further her aim of humiliating and isolating him.”

One of the girl’s attorneys, Crystal Riggins, told the Post yesterday  (Feb. 25) that the boy had also made the bullying allegations to the district on Feb. 11 in a complaint under Title IX, the law that requires federally funded schools to protect students from gender discrim- ination and sexual harassment and assault.

The boy’s Los Angeles-based attorney, Alec Rose, declined to send a copy of the boy’s Title IX complaint to the Post because it’s an educational record subject to federal privacy laws, then said he wasn’t confirming whether or not the complaint existed.

Claim called retaliation

Riggins said the boy’s accusation of being bullied amounts to retaliation against the girl.

The boy allegedly forced the girl to perform a sex act on him, then he is accused of sexually harassing her for months after she broke up with him over the incident.

The girl’s attorneys tried to prevent the school district from investigating the boy’s allegation that he was being bullied by the girl, but Judge Helen Williams denied that motion yesterday (Feb. 25).

Riggins, the girl’s attorney, said the judge’s reason for denying the motion was that the court can only get involved in matters that have concluded.

Riggins and her fellow attorney Laura Riparbelli take the position that under Title IX, the district can dismiss the complaint summarily as being in retaliation.

“We are not letting that go. We felt we had to bring it to the court’s attention,” Riggins told the Post. “We will keep challenging it as being in retaliation.”

The district first told the boy he would be removed from the team on Nov. 5, five months after the girl filed a complaint with the district’s Title IX office alleging that the boy had harassed her on campus and over text messages after she broke up with him in January 2018.

The breakup was in reaction to the boy forcing her to perform a sex act on him, according to the girl’s lawyers.

But his parents fought the decision with the state Office of Administrative Hearings, which found that the district failed to hold a “manifestation meeting” to determine whether the harassment was related to the boy’s pragmatic speech disability, also known as social communication disorder.

Under disability law, that precludes the district from imposing discipline on the boy for longer than 10 days.

On the team, then off the team

Last month, the district agreed that the boy could participate in the robotics team again but would have to be accompanied by an escort to prevent him from harassing the girl, which led the girl to go to court.

The girl’s lawyers obtained an order from the judge to keep the boy off the team until the case is decided.

According to the girl, the boy made disparaging remarks about the girl’s sexual performance in front of other students on two occasions on campus last spring, humiliating her. In May, the boy sent the girl vulgar text messages on two occasions, telling her that it was “hard to respect someone” after the sex act and asking her “How’s your sex life?”

The boy’s mother claims that three of the four instances of sexual harassment that the district found her son had committed resulted from verbal or written responses to communications instigated by the girl.

As one example, the girl had asked a friend to ask the boy an embarrassing sexual question. He answered the question and was reported for harassment while the friend asking the question was not reported, the boy’s mother claims.

Email sent to parents

Additionally, on Jan. 21, after learning that the boy would be allowed back on the team, the girl’s parents sent an email to other parents on the robotics team alerting them of the Title IX finding against the boy and asking that they keep an eye on her because they felt she was in danger.

“We are a private family, but as fellow parents we want you to know what is happening,” the girl’s parents wrote.

“We thank you for your attention and we apologize for sharing our family’s turmoil.”
The girl’s family also wrote that they had filed a police report of sexual assault and that the case was “still with” prosecutors, which was incorrect — the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office told the boy’s family in October that they would not be filing charges.

The boy’s attorney has accused the girl’s family of intentionally misrepresenting the case, but Riggins said prosecutors didn’t notify the girl’s family until Jan. 31 — after the parents’ email to the other parents — that the boy wouldn’t be charged.

The girl filed the case against the district last month, asking the judge to intervene and remove the boy from the team permanently. A hearing in the case is planned for March 8.

Previous stories on this controversy

• Feb. 15: Robotics team member accused of harassment gets a lawyer

• Feb. 7: School district asks for help settling robotics team sex harassment case

• Feb. 2: Judge to decide if school discipline in student sex harassment case was appropriate

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