Boulder Valley School District to pay $1.26M to settle Title IX lawsuit
The Boulder Valley School District will pay $1.26 million to settle a federal sexual harassment lawsuit brought by two former Fairview High School students, according to settlement agreements obtained by The Denver Post through an open records request.
The settlement, signed Monday, bookends a three-year stretch in which students at Fairview High led a broad reckoning over the school’s culture amid multiple sexual assault and harassment allegations between students.
The reckoning began in 2019, when the school’s star quarterback was arrested on sexual assault charges. He later was acquitted of the most serious charges, but after the quarterback’s arrest, an ex-lacrosse player at the school was convicted of sexually assaulting three young women while he was a student, the school’s principal retired after an internal investigation into his handling of sexual harassment complaints and after Boulder police investigated him for obstructing the police investigation into the quarterback, and another former football player was convicted of attempted sexual assault for pinning a girl to a locker at school and groping her.
Students also walked out of the school to protest its culture, which they said was especially tolerant of inappropriate behavior by male athletes, and the Boulder Valley School District hired its first Title IX coordinator to lead an internal reform effort.
The two former students brought the federal sexual harassment lawsuit in 2021 and alleged that Fairview officials knew during the 2016-2017 school year that the ex-lacrosse player was accused of raping at least two other students, but failed to investigate and did nothing to protect students from facing a hostile environment at school.
In addition to paying one student $735,000 and the other $525,000, the settlement also requires the school district to ensure all district staff complete Title IX training and that high school teachers receive additional training.
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and requires schools that receive federal funding to investigate and remedy hostile educational environments, among other obligations.
The district also agreed to give all students information and training on consent, sexual assault and sexual harassment during school hours, and the school district will put up posters about sexual assault and Title IX in all of its high schools, as well as publish information about Title IX and the school’s policy of zero tolerance for sexual harassment on several platforms.
The students’ attorneys, John Clune and Kim Hult, said Wednesday that the training and changes at schools were just as important to their clients as monetary damages.
“They brought this case because it was so important to them to address the culture and change the culture at Fairview,” Hult said. “That is why the terms of the settlement are so meaningful to them, (terms) that we really hope will make a difference — training for teachers, training for students, making sure people really understand what their rights are under federal law.”
A spokesman for the school district, Randy Barber, said in a statement that the district is “committed to protecting students and will not tolerate sexual discrimination, harassment or violence in our schools or school communities.”
The statement outlined several changes the school district has made in the past few years, including adopting new policies that align with Title IX regulations, creating a Title IX advisory council and expanding Title IX training across the district.
“Following this and other cases…BVSD and Fairview have taken many actions to address equity concerns in our community, including Title IX’s protections against sexual and gender harassment and discrimination,” the statement said.
Clune credited current students and former students at Fairview for leading the push for change within the district.
“There is nothing more powerful to drive change at a school than student activism,” he said.
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