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Texas School District Faces Two Lawsuits Over Sexual Assault

La Vernia High School

In the latest suit, a student claims he was repeatedly assaulted by basketball teammates and staff members took no action.

The La Vernia, Texas, Independent School District is facing two lawsuits from families who say their children were raped by high school athletes while adults knew of the assaults and failed to take action.

The latest suit was filed January 23 but reported just last week by the San Antonio Express-News. The previous one was filed in April. There are also criminal charges against several students in the small town of La Vernia, about 30 miles from San Antonio.

The most recent suit alleges that a member of the La Vernia High School basketball team, identified only as John Doe, "was sexually assaulted more than 30 times between October 2016 and February 2017," The Daily Beast reports. The assaults involved penetration with fingers and objects including a flashlight, and took place in the high school's locker and shower rooms, at other schools, and in teammates' homes, according to the suit. The student claims a coach heard him screaming during one assault and actually witnessed another but did nothing.

In the suit, John Doe's parents say there was a "deliberately indifferent response to multiple events of student-on-student sexual assault and subsequent sex-based harassment." The contend that by allowing the abuse, the school was in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, prohibiting sex discrimination in education. Under President Barack Obama, the Department of Education held that Title IX also banned anti-transgender discrimination, a stance abandoned under Donald Trump - but some courts have upheld the broader interpretation of Title IX.

Thirteen players on the high school's varsity basketball, football, and baseball teams face criminal charges of sexually assaulting other students, according to The Daily Beast. John Doe's suit names some of the same athletes who have been arrested on these charges. They have all denied participating in the assaults.

The suit filed in April, by the family of a school football player identified as Child Doe, tells of sexual assault with a Gatorade bottle and other objects, The Daily Beast reports, and claims that coaches "sanctioned these rituals," while other school officials "turned a blind eye toward the abuse, even after the abuse was reported to them."

"After our careful investigation regarding this filed lawsuit, we believe we are on solid ground that our minor client suffered severe and permanent mental and physical injuries as a result of this," said Fidel Rodriguez, an attorney for family in the most recent suit, told the Express-News. "These types of cases need to be brought out into the light so that they don't happen again to any other student-athlete in the state of Texas."

At least 10 students have reported sexual abuse in the school, and the Texas Rangers and the state attorney general's office are continuing to investigation, according to the paper. Superintendent Jose Moreno, criticized for his response to the abuse allegations and resigned in November.

Interim superintendent Gary Patterson told the Express-News he has been briefed on the lawsuits. "We're looking forward to resolution of these issues and are awaiting the results of the Texas Ranger investigation to assist the district as we move forward," he added. "The district's internal investigation is ongoing and in conjunction with the Rangers investigation."

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