Lawsuit Claims School Used Rape Victim as “Bait”

Trigger Warning for rape apologism/denialism and discussions of sexual violence and rape culture.

School is supposed to be a safe place for students to learn and interact with their peers. But as far too marginalized persons know, schools frequently present an environment that is the exact opposite, from being sites of sexualized gender-based violence, to racialized violence, to homophobic and transphobic violence, and other forms of physical assault and emotional injury. Too often, we think of harassment and violence in schools as “the way things are” — how they have always been, how they will always be, and something we are all helpless to change. Rarely do we recognize that these kinds of traumas don’t have to be a part of growing up, but are usually just an exaggerated (or usually exaggerated) reflection of what takes place in adult spaces.

And even more rarely do we discuss how the schools themselves, those tasked to protect students and make schools a safe place, are actively reinforcing and/or perpetuating violence themselves.

This weekend, Amandaw linked to an article on her Tumblr about a lawsuit in which a school allegedly made a rape victim “bait” in a “sting operation” to catch teens “having sex” after school. But it gets worse. Because Upper St. Clair High School failed to provide safe exit from the school to the victim, as one responsible teacher originally proposed, and instead forced her to stay on school grounds, she was raped again, along with another girl.

According to the brief by the student’s attorney, on Feb. 4, 2008, the girl went to one of her teachers, Esther von Waldow, and told her that a boy, with whom she’d had previous problems, had forced her to have sex with him after school. The Post-Gazette does not identify victims of sexual assault and has not identified the accused rapist, who pleaded guilty in juvenile court to sexual assault.

The girl told Ms. von Waldow that he forced another student to have sex, as well.

Ms. von Waldow, according to the brief, immediately went to school administrators with concerns and offered several options to make sure the girls in question got home safely. They included offering herself to walk the girls to their school bus.

But, the filing said, school Principal Michael Ghilani had a different idea.

“Instead, Ghilani wanted to keep Jane Doe on school property and not let her leave. Ghilani’s plan, known as the ‘sting operation,’ was to use Jane Doe as ‘bait’ to lead the school administrators to [the boy] and perhaps other girls.”

According to a court filing submitted by the school district, Dr. Ghilani didn’t believe that the students were in danger or that any safety concerns were present. Instead, he thought students were having consensual sex in school after hours.

He devised a plan to have school police officers follow the students in question to determine who they were and where they were going.

“Security personnel followed the students. Whether the sexual activity was alleged to be consensual or nonconsensual would not have altered the plan,” Upper St. Clair said in its brief. “The plan to was to monitor the students and stop the students before any sexual activity occurred.”

The officers followed the students and believed that they had gone home for the day.

However, an officer working night duty later saw on a school surveillance camera that the boy and another girl were back on the premises.

Though the officer then did rounds to find them, he never did.

The girl’s attorneys contend that two girls were raped in the stairwell that afternoon, including their client.

“Ghilani’s ‘sting operation,’ which prevented von Waldow from placing Jane Doe on her bus and out of harm’s way so that she could be used as bait, resulted in her being violently raped. Ghilani and the school district acted in utter disregard of her welfare.”

Oh boy.

If the allegations against the school district are true, I really can’t imagine a greater breach of student safety and trust. I don’t care how many security officers are following or supposed to be following the students in question — rape victims should never be used as “bait,” let alone as a means to catch students having consensual sex. That this was the plan doesn’t seem to be denied, but instead rather implicitly confirmed through statements by school representatives reproduced up above.

The logic behind the idea is terrifying.  One is left presuming that Principal Ghilani saw Jane Doe’s report of being rape as not falling under the category of “real” rape, and thus related to the consensual sex he was trying to stamp out. It’s an incredibly revealing tactic, as it shows that Ghilani strongly prioritized busting students having consensual sexual contact (in an admittedly inappropriate location) over adequately and responsibly responding to claims of sexual violence. As is so common, consensual female sexuality is seen as a bigger threat to order than male sexual violence.

In its defense, the school district only confirms that this was their line of thinking.[1. They also have a substance free statement up on their website.] Rather than denying that any “sting” was planned at all — apparently, there’s too much evidence that it was real — they’ve just resorted to calling Jane Doe a lying whore:

But in court documents filed by the school district, there are allegations that relationships between the boy in question and several of the girls who claim to be victims were consensual. The district argues that the girls liked him, and were jealous of the others.

In one court filing, the district said that it could dispute whether the student who filed the lawsuit has been raped.

But following the incident, the girl’s attorneys contend in documents, the suspect sent the girl this text message:

“im soo sry i didn’t mean 2 make u cry. i’m cant believe i just raped u well bout time u read dis i mite b dead.”

School officials also claim that they knew nothing of any sexual assaults by the boy until the morning of Feb. 5, 2008 — the day after the alleged “sting.”

So not only did Jane Doe make up both rapes, but the sting operation came about because the principal thought that the student had reported consensual sex to her teacher? Yes, I see how that makes sense. Throw in something about how victims of sexual violence really wanted it and like to fight over their rapist, and no one will notice the illogical nature of the claim! Everyone eats that jealous, boy-obsessed teenage girl shit right up. Also, stuff about how girls and women who claim rape are really just dirty sluts in denial.

I’m honestly not even sure which facet of this case I find most appalling — the lesson that if you report being raped to your school, they’ll use you as a method to catch other students doing allegedly naughty things rather than protecting you; or the lesson that if you report being raped to your school, they’ll respond to their own culpability in the situation by telling the national media that you wanted it, anyway.

I guess that if there’s any “good news” in this case, it’s the fact that we don’t have to choose between condemning the two. The entire story is filled to the brim with victim-blaming, rape apologism, and enabling of sexual violence. And barring an enormous bombshell that the Upper St. Clair School District has in its back pocket, what they’ve admitted to alone shows that they’re responsible for repeatedly and persistently fostering an environment where sexual violence is encouraged, both by placing the situation on the back burner and refusing to listen to rape victims when they come forward.

0 thoughts on “Lawsuit Claims School Used Rape Victim as “Bait”

  1. Crystal

    Their website says absolutely nothing. Doesn’t even make a person think they’ve been accused of rape. I don’t even understand what that webpage DID say. Why even create one if you’re going to say nothing?

  2. vibes01

    objectively speaking, i think using a person to meet your own ends (principal using girl) shows me that psychologically this person should not be head of a school of people… to see the girl (or anyone) as an object that will satisfy results for him indicates some sort of sociopathic behaviour…

    arent there strong tests to siphen out the controlling sociopaths within children/young person spheres?

  3. Katrina

    What was the principal thinking? A female student tells a teacher about a boy who raped her and at least one other girl or he decides to play cops and robbers by using a rape victim as bait? He should have lost his job and been arrested for child endangerment the day this happened. I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that this principle hasn’t been charged with anything yet. No teacher/principle/counseler can force a student to stay in a dangerous place legally. Even if the cops didn’t get bored and go home, nearly being raped is just as terrifying and damaging as the actually rape.
    I can’t believe that this principle didn’t even care if the boy was raping or having sex with girls. He seriously didn’t believe she was raped and still would have gone on with his plan if he did believe her? How sick is that?

    Unfortunately, the rest of the article doesn’t surprise me. Victim blaming, dodging responsibility, viewing any non-virginal female as a slut, ect. is the usual in these cases. It’s the principle getting away with playing detetive with one of his students and not getting arrested. The two girls were raped because of his delussional idea and he still has job. If the two girls were killed would he still be employed? Do the other parents of students in this school think the two girls were asking for it by not going home on time? And what do they mean by after hours? For all we know, the second girl was at school after hours for a club activity when she enter the stiarwell where she was raped along with the first rape victim. I know I stayed after school for all my events and had to take the public bus home.

    This story is just too infuriating. Jane Doe did not have to be raped a first time and sure as hell shouldn’t have been raped a second time. I wish society would realize that rape happens because men feel intitled enough to take a woman by force and not because the woman was asking for it. I don’t think this case is as simple as female sexuality being more dangerous than male sexual violence. I think the principle doesn’t believe man sexuality in teenagers is possible since he seems to believe all female teens want sex. He may see teenage girls as un-rapable based on his belife that all sex happening after hours was consentual.

    Seriously…2 girls were raped and he still thinks he should keep his job and the school board in his district are allowing him to do so. My child would not be attending that school anymore even if we had to move and even if my child was male. Especially since this is far from the first time a girl came forward about rape to only get ignored or treated like a jealous slut who wanted it. I’m not even going to believe for one second that all the teachers are completely innocent of rape at this point. This school neeeds to be closed before more girls are raped, assaulted, and/or harrased.

  4. Jennifer

    WOW… I don’t even think that there are words to describe this… The principle used a rape victim as bait for his own voyageristic gratification and got away with it… I’m sorry but that is NOT the way to EVER handle ANYTHING! that girl and all the others are going to have to live with that for the rest of their lives…

  5. Jason

    This is exactly why I’m leaving this fucking country, Its not bad enough that the girl was raped but the fact that her school principle used her as bait??? what type of sense does that make?.. Twisted world we live in, best believe that everyone will get whats coming to them soon enough.

  6. Su N

    What I don’t understand is why does the victim have to sue to get anything done? This is a criminal matter and the principal should be up on criminal charges first. Where is St. Clair anyway? Not a place for my children to go and IF I had kids in that school you bet they would not be there another day until this guy was fired and in jail!

  7. SunlessNick

    Its not bad enough that the girl was raped but the fact that her school principle used her as bait?

    And still doesn’t think he did anything wrong after his doing so made sure she was raped again.

  8. Rachel Guillerman

    From the statement on the school’s website: ‘Upper St. Clair School District contends the Plaintiffs have not met their burden under relevant statutes and therefore the cases should be dismissed.’

    You have to wonder exactly what the school’s definition of the victim’s ‘meeting their burden’ is.. being raped once-no, being used as bait by your principal-no, being raped twice b/c you were used as bait by your principal-no, another victim being raped b/c of being used as bait-no, the rapist actually pleading guilty and sending you apologies via text before he rapes you again-no. To what end Upper St. Clair? At what point have they met their ‘burden’???? You’d think they’ve been burdened enough.

    The principal’s email on the website:
    412-833-1600, ext 2829

    Admninistrative Offices
    1820 McLaughlin Run Road
    Upper St. Claire, PA 15241
    412-833-1600 ext 2202

  9. Andrew

    Wow… I can’t believe any administrator would put a student in such a horrible position and then so utterly let them down!!!

    I can’t even imagine any administration not embracing that student and trying to create a more protective environment to counter the sense of defenselessness and insecurity that has been imposed on that young woman.

    That administrator, and anyone in the administration who supported the effort, should be tried as if they committed the crime themselves. Shame on them. I hope these young women get the help they need!

  10. M.Clarkle

    The more I hear about this school district, the more disgusted I’ve become. For a school to stay silent during proceedings because they can’t decide guilt is one things – but these people came out and disputed this girls claims as if they knew anything? They always seem to choose the wrong side don’t they. It’s like they want to do anything in their power to re-victimize this girl and set an enduring precedent of “slut-shaming.”

  11. me

    The schools actions make me SICK. This story reminds me a Dateline show I saw where the police actually falsely arrested a rape victim, all over some stupid rumor. We just cannot have people like this in positions of power….

    “The lieutenant greeted us and said he needed to speak with me first. He took me in a small room, sat in front of me at a desk, and hit record on a tape recorder. He unfolded a small piece of white paper and read me my Miranda rights. During a lengthy interrogation, he accused me of lying. He told me he had countless interviews and photographs to prove it, and that I had everything to lose including my husband, my children, my career and my reputation. The lieutenant even blamed me for calling 911 that night. He said he had 27 cases on his desk and that one way or another he was going to close this one. He continued, insisting that his peers listened to my tape and agreed that I was purposefully lying. He said my children would be dragged through the courts and only a judge who was not in his right mind would throw this out of court. He warned that I would do jail time. Caught completely off-guard, all I could do was tell him that I was willing to take a lie detector test. A month before, I was attacked in my own home. Now, I was attacked at the police station. Both were places I had believed to be safe harbors.”

  12. Pingback: » Teen Raped After Being Used by School as “Bait”

  13. maryvirginia

    I am the aunt of one of the girls who was raped in Upper St. Clair High School. Every word of the civil suit brief is true. Three different girls were raped by the same boy in the same stairwell, one so badly that she left a pool of blood on the floor. The boy dipped his hand in the blood and left a bloody hand print on the wall. My niece was raped underneath that bloody handprint. The Upper School District
    has been in CYA mode since the day the rapes were made to known to the police department. The principal did know the girls were in danger and did forbid the teacher to walk them to the bus, hoping to catch the boy in the act. To this day, the President of the Upper St. Clair School board has not even phoned my niece’s family to see how she is doing, and yes, the Principal of the school and the two assistant principals all still have their jobs. It is a complete outrage!!!!!

  14. littlem

    My mother is a former principal, my dad a professor. I come from a family of educators.

    What that principal did — didn’t do, really — is one of the most egregious failures of professional responsibility in loco parentis I’ve ever seen.

    Why does he still have a job?

  15. SunlessNick

    @Maryvirginia: For whatever it’s worth from a complete stranger on the net, I’m sorry for your niece’s pain, and the others’, and yours.

  16. Pingback: Beyond the Campus: Weeks 18 & 19 | Change Happens: The SAFER Blog

  17. Jennifer Kesler

    vibes01, you’re exactly right – using people as objects for your own gratification indicates a sociopathic personality. But no, there are no psychiatric tests of educators/school admins in the US. I don’t think we test police, either. Very few people in the US even know what sociopaths are, how highly they function, or how well they blend in. We rely on Hollywood stereotypes of moustache-twirling villains, then wonder why every time a serial killer or someone stashing young girls in his basement for years on end gets caught, all his neighbors are totally and completely stunned. Yeah.

    Maryvirginia, thank you for speaking out. I hope your niece gets an outcome that brings you and everyone who cares about her some sort of peace, or at least justice.

  18. Kate

    I’m from the area, and have been following this case since I first heard about it. One thing I don’t think has been mentioned in the comments as yet – the teacher who the girl reported the rape to, who wanted to walk her to her school bus – she was fired.

    The school cited that she was dismissed because she did not report the allegations when the girl told her the first time, but only reported them later.

    This was another method to protect the school, so that they could pretend the teacher didn’t alert them to the situation in time. This whole situation makes me sick sick sick.


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