Field trip rape allegation forces change, cash settlement at Seattle Schools

SEATTLE -- Seattle Public Schools is expected to pay $700,000 to a former Garfield High School student and her family after she was allegedly raped on a field trip with the school in 2012.

Earlier this month, the district settled with the female student and her parents for $700,000. The student claimed she was raped by a popular school athlete while on a three day nature field-trip in 2012 when she was 15 years old.

Allegations of the rape were largely dismissed by Seattle Public Schools, Al Jazeera reported in an extensive investigative piece, despite the student's documented rape trauma. The allegations were heard by the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, however, which included Seattle Public Schools in an investigation of 23 districts nationwide that perpetrated possible Title IX violations; the document mandating how public institutions should handle sexual assault allegations.

The results of the investigation are pending.  Garfield High School officials maintain multiple law enforcement agencies determined there was inconclusive evidence of a crime. To this date, no criminal charges were filed in the alleged assault.

Still, the accusations and threatened litigation spurred the district to focus on overnight field trip procedures, as well as work to ensure compliance with federal Title IX mandates.

According to Seattle Public Schools, the district has worked to improve field trip and chaperone policy, putting emphasis on chaperone training. The number of chaperons required for each trip, hourly check-ins and penalties for misbehavior have all been increased, the district said.

The district has created a new Title IX webpage, and says a number of officials have been appointed to ensure the district's adherence to the rules. A group tasked with creating a program to "prevent and respond" to sexual assaults has also been created. Additional training session on how to prevent sexual assault have also been planned.

The payment for the alleged sexual assault victim has not yet been approved, the district said, and will go before the entire board on Oct. 15.