Former student sues Seattle schools over sexual assault

A former Seattle high school student who was sexually assaulted by another student in 2018 filed a lawsuit against Seattle Public Schools this week, alleging the district failed to protect her from the "reasonably foreseeable dangers" of being attacked in an unsupervised, all-gender bathroom.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court by attorney Julie Kays, also claims the school district did nothing to support or protect the then 18-year-old Ballard High School senior. But, a faculty member accompanied the woman’s assailant, Demonte Rigney, to court when the victim was granted a sexual-assault protection order that led to Rigney’s removal from the school, according to Kays.

Tim Robinson, a spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools, said the district’s legal department is reviewing the lawsuit and said it is too early to comment on the litigation.

Gender-neutral bathrooms are intended to support transgender and gender nonconforming students, and research from the UCLA School of Law in 2018 found there was no link between transgender rights laws and crimes taking place in bathrooms. A 2019 study found that transgender and gender-nonbinary teens are at greater risk of sexual assault if their schools deny them access to bathrooms or locker rooms that match their gender identity.

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Still, Kays argues in the lawsuit that Ballard High’s bathroom can be made safer.

Rigney was originally charged with third-degree rape but pleaded guilty in September as part of a plea agreement to the lesser charge of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, court records show. He was convicted of the same crime in 2015 when he was a juvenile, according to court records.

He received a 364-day suspended sentence, two years of unsupervised probation, and was ordered to complete 24 hours of community service, according to court records. He was also ordered to participate in a boundaries and consent program and provide proof of completion, the records say.

A phone message left for Rigney’s former defense attorney was not immediately returned.