Damascus High School sexual assault case heads to federal court

A lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools and Damascus High School has moved into federal court, alleging they ignored evidence of sexual abuse and violated Title IX.

Court documents say five teenagers were prosecuted in Montgomery County Circuit Court for the sexual assault of their junior varsity football teammates in October of 2018.

While the case was at the circuit court level, lawyers argued that the school chose to ignore the sexual assault cases because of the success of the football program.

“Damascus High School put a winning football culture ahead of a culture of safety, ahead of protecting their own students, ahead of protecting their own players. They knew that there was a culture of violence in the locker room, yet they allowed it to flourish because they put winning first,” lawyer Timothy F. Maloney said at the time.

All of their cases were sent to juvenile court and the outcomes are sealed.

The attorneys representing the junior varsity players’ families have filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland this month against the Montgomery County school board and the high school, alleging both parties were negligent and violated Title IX.

Title IX is a federal civil rights protection against discrimination based on sex in education programs.

In response to the initial allegations, the school hired an outside investigator, who determined the problem was not widespread in the school system.

Family lawyers argued that the school “had extensive notice of the abuse and predatory brooming ritual perpetuated by the football players at Damascus High School yet chose to ignore the danger it posed to students.”

The suit alleges the school and its leaders “should have known of the football players abusive and predatory conduct against freshman players” and “at minimum were deliberately indifferent to such behavior.”

Montgomery County Public Schools did not comment on the lawsuit.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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