Sanpete County Mother Sues School District Over Alleged Sexual Assault
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A Sanpete County woman has filed suit with her son’s school district and several administrators, saying an alleged sexual assault and the district’s response to it violated the boy’s civil rights.
The boy, identified as Greg, and his mother, Misty Cox, said they wanted to take a public stand to empower others.
The lawsuit named the South Sanpete School District, superintendent Kent Larsen, Gunnison Valley High School principal Trevor Powell, vice-principal Rhett Jackson, and athletic director Jared Anderson.
The federal lawsuit stemmed from an incident the family said happened on September 17.
They said Greg was on the Gunnison Valley High School football team. Before practice started, two teammates allegedly pinned him to the ground while another sexually assaulted him. They said about 15 other students witnessed the incident.
“It was a constitutional violation of epic proportions,” said attorney Robert Sykes during a news conference Thursday.
According to the lawsuit, Greg’s parents said they discussed what happened with the superintendent. They said he downplayed the incident.
“The superintendent basically said, and I think he used these actual words, ‘Boys will be boys.’ (He was) just dismissive of the fact that there had been a sexual assault on a 14-year-old,” Sykes said.
They said the alleged attackers were suspended from school for three days, but allowed to go to football practice with Greg. They said several students at the high school began to harass Greg daily, calling him a “snitch,” and verbally harassing him about the incident.
Since the reported incident, Sykes said at least 15 other students have come forward with similar accounts of sexual assault by the same three students. Sykes said the incidents dated back two years, and that school administrators were aware of those incidents, but did nothing to stop them.
“This school district and these defendants that I’ve listed in the complaint had knowledge, prior knowledge of these very students – students 1, 2 and 3 – committing prior sexual assaults and condoned it, did nothing, or took inadequate action,” Sykes said.
“If someone else, like the school, would have done something, then my son wouldn’t have been assaulted,” Cox, said.
As a result of a police investigation, one teen faced several charges of object rape and sexual abuse. The Sanpete County Attorney told KSL earlier in October that the September 17 incident led investigators to discover many other incidents.
Greg was still a student at Gunnison Valley High School and remained on the football team. He said he chose to report what happened and talk to journalists openly about it to protect others.
“If I didn’t say anything, it could happen to someone else and then they might not do something and it could happen to more people, and I don’t want that,” he said.
Cox said she believes other people may be afraid to speak up, and hoped to empower them by taking the lead.
“I will be whatever strength we both need, because I know it’s not just for my son. It’s for who knows how many other children need it, too,” she said. “That’s my motivation to be in front of cameras, because there’s so many victims that are afraid. For me, I have been afraid and I’m not afraid anymore. I’m willing to stand up front and stand strong for me and for anyone else that’s afraid. I am strong enough for anyone else that’s afraid,”
KSL reached out to the South Sanpete School District. The employee who answered the phone said Larsen was out for the day and there likely would not be any comment Thursday.
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