Punishment "regardless of consent"

Posted at 8:56 AM, Jun 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-16 08:56:46-04

Two teenage students from Eastern High School have come forward about being sexually assaulted. And, one of them was punished under District policy forbidding sexual conduct.

"She was suspended for lewd and lascivious behavior, for what they considered to be a consensual act and she maintained from the very beginning that it was not consensual," explained the student's lawyer, Karen Truszkowski.

Truszkowski tells Fox 47 News, two attorneys watched video of the incident and suspended both students.

"They made the determination of - or told her they didn't believe her story and that re-victimized her all over again," she said. "So, what student is going to report what happened to them, if there's the chance that they're going to be suspended or get in trouble if something happens to them?"

Truszkowski told Fox 47 News the policy is scaring students away from reporting.

Under "Behaviors Which May Lead to Disciplinary Action," "Obscene or Lewd Behavior" is defined as "engaging in conduct of a sexual nature regardless of consent."

"Now that is certainly subject to interpretation, but on its face it sounds like hey I might get in trouble if I tell a teacher or I tell a principal or an administrator that something happened to me," Truszkowski said.

But, the District sees it differently.

Deputy Superintendent Mark Coscarella explained, "It means that regardless if someone gives you consent, it doesn't mean I can do whatever I want. So it's about behavior in school."

He admitted he can see how it's confusing.

"It's not about a victim being punished for sexual assault or anything like that. It's about giving consent. It would be no different if you and I were driving down the road and you said Mark go through that red light, okay I'm gonna go ahead and go through it. Now I have consented to go through it and you told me to do it, but I've still broken the law," Coscarella said.

The attorney told Fox 47 News the District needs to change the policy and the way students report a sexual assault.

She said neither student had any idea what their rights were under Title IX or who the Title IX Coordinator was, which is why she's suing the District.

We've been looking into other Districts' policies, including Okemos, Williamston, East Lansing, Holt, Jackson, Grand Ledge and Saint Johns.

None of them make mention of consent.

We'll let you know if either lawsuit goes to trial.