DULUTH — The Proctor, Minn., school district is seeking dismissal of a federal sex discrimination lawsuit filed against it last month.
The parents of the student who was sexually assaulted by a fellow player after a Proctor High School football practice last fall are suing the school district and the former football coaches and superintendent for a civil rights violation related to the assault, alleging they had prior knowledge of football hazing activities, among other claims.
The student's parents, whom the Star Tribune isn't naming to protect the identity of the victim, filed a suit in federal court on their son's behalf for the September incident that resulted in the cancellation of the school's football season and the resignation of its head coach. A former Proctor student and football player was given probation in June for assaulting the victim with a toilet plunger and must register as a predatory offender for 10 years.
In a response filed by a Minneapolis law firm this week, the school district denied the allegations, deeming those related to hazing and any knowledge of school officials of that hazing to be "vague" and "ambiguous."
Any alleged harm is "speculative," the response says, and defendants acted in "good faith" while complying with legal obligations.
The lawsuit alleges that hazing using a toilet plunger was common before and during former coach Derek Parendo's decade-plus leading the team, and the practice was known to coaches, former superintendent John Engelking and other school leaders and guidance counselors.
The lawsuit says "all defendants have condoned student on student sexual and physical harassment and assault in the past by down-playing the acts, failing to ensure the toilet plunger was removed, failing to educate staff and student-athletes regarding the dangers of hazing and bullying, and by violating its own policies, procedures and/or state law or federal law."
The victim has suffered embarrassment, humiliation, fear of retaliation, intimidation, breach of trust, anxiety and depression, according to the complaint. A statement from him read by his mother in court in June said that what happened "will affect my life forever."
The lawsuit alleges that the school district intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the victim by not enforcing harassment and assault policies.