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“Experts call such victim-blaming ‘tortured rationalizations.'”

See the source imageA California father believes his 18-year-old son’s alcohol-related death was the result of a fraternity hazing ritual. The Orange County coroner’s office said Monday, Noah Domingo died from accidental alcohol poisoning.

Noah’s blood alcohol level was more than four times the legal limit, reports CBS News’ Jamie Yuccas. The UC Irvine freshman was found unresponsive after a party in January. His father said Noah was taking part in a dangerous and longstanding fraternity ritual. His death has already prompted Sigma Alpha Epsilon to close its chapter at UC Irvine indefinitely.

In a statement to CBS News, Dale Domingo said, “We have discovered the horrifying truth about fraternity hazing.” He contends the fraternity was conducting its “big brother night” ritual where “Noah was compelled to guzzle a so-called ‘family drink’ to become part of his big brother’s family.” He said, “It is why fraternities openly refer to this type of ritual as being one of the ‘deadly nights.'”

Authorities said Domingo died at about 3:30 in the morning, but the initial 911 call was some six hours later. The person who called 911 told the operator “he just drank, he just drank too much.”

Disputing the account in the 911 call, Noah’s father said his son did not just drink too much. He said experts call such victim-blaming “tortured rationalizations.”

Authorities are still investigating the circumstances leading to Domingo’s death and have not confirmed that hazing played a role.
In a statement, the university offered its “deepest sympathies to the Domingo family” and said “his death brings an urgent focus on alcohol and substance abuse.”

The focus on fraternity hazing has intensified in recent years with the deaths of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza and Florida State University fraternity member Andrew Coffey.

Just like other families impacted by college drinking deaths, Noah’s father said he will honor his son by doing everything he can to end hazing by fraternities and their members.

CBS News reached out to Sigma Alpha Epsilon regarding the confirmation of Domingo’s cause of death, but have not heard back.

©  2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. See the Full Report Here.

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Sharon Bottoms Mattes, Who Lost Gay Rights Custody Battle to Her Mother, Dies at 48

The Washington Post | By Matt Schudel | February 16, 2019

Sharon Bottoms Mattes, a central figure in a prolonged court battle in the 1990s who lost custody of her son to her mother after Virginia courts ruled that she was “an unfit parent” because she was involved in a same-sex relationship, died Jan. 21 at her home in Richlands, N.C. She was 48.

Her family placed a death notice that was published in January in the Jacksonville (N.C.) Daily News. According to Facebook posts by members of her family, the cause of death was cancer. Efforts to reach members of her family were unsuccessful.

In 1991, Ms. Mattes, then known as Sharon Bottoms, gave birth to a son, Tyler Doustou. By then, she was already divorced from the boy’s father, who was not involved in raising the child.

About a year later, Ms. Mattes and April Wade, a food-service worker, formed a household together near Richmond. Ms. Mattes’s mother, Kay Bottoms, later sought to gain custody of Tyler.

The bitter court battle — pitting mother against daughter and involving intimate and embarrassing details of their lives — played out in courtrooms for three years before it was ultimately decided by the Virginia Supreme Court.

The case was watched closely, as gay and lesbian activists sought to extend their parental rights. It was watched just as closely by conservative religious groups, who viewed it as “another step in the gradual degradation and deconstruction of American society,” as Walter E. Barbee, president of the Family Foundation, put it.

The Virginia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union handled much of Ms. Mattes’s legal defense. After a juvenile court judge ruled in favor of Kay Bottoms’s demand for custody, the case heard before Circuit Court Judge Buford M. Parsons Jr.

As the case developed, Ms. Mattes said her mother’s live-in boyfriend had subjected her to repeated sexual attacks, beginning when she was 12. Her mother said she was not aware of any sexual abuse.

After dropping out of high school, Ms. Mattes held a series of part-time jobs, mostly as a store clerk, and had a short-lived marriage. Her former husband, Dennis Doustou, testified in support of Ms. Mattes.

Under questioning, Ms. Mattes admitted that she and Wade occasionally kissed in Tyler’s presence and, in private, engaged in oral sex. At the time, oral sex was considered sodomy in Virginia and was classified as a felony, whether performed by straight couples, same-sex couples or anyone else. It was not decriminalized until 2014.

Parsons upheld the juvenile court’s decision, awarding custody of Tyler to Kay Bottoms, declaring in his decision that Ms. Mattes’s “conduct is illegal and immoral” and “renders her an unfit parent.”

Ms. Mattes was allowed to see her 2-year-old son from Monday morning to Tuesday night — but only if she did not take him to the home she shared with Wade, who had no visitation rights.

“It’s the kind of case that strikes terror in people’s hearts,” Liz Hendrickson, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said at the time. “It makes them wonder, ‘Could this happen to me?’ ”

Because she could not afford a hotel room, Ms. Mattes met her son at a friend’s house.

“We hang out, go to the park. Lots of things,” she said.

She did interviews with People magazine, “Larry King Live” and “Geraldo.” Her mother, who lived in a mobile home in Spotsylvania County, went on Sally Jessy Raphael’s television show and said her daughter “was doing drugs, she partied, she wanted to have a good time. . . . I have threatened her many times I was going to take him.”

In a 1993 interview with The Washington Post, Ms. Mattes said her son would fall to sleep only if she put his head on her stomach.

“I cried the first time he did it,” she said. “Do you think he knows it’s where he came from?”

In 1994, a Virginia Court of Appeals panel ruled unanimously that Ms. Mattes should have primary custody of her son.

“I’m not a hero,” she said at the time. “I’m just a mother trying to get her son back.”

Her legal victory was short-lived. Lawyers for her mother filed an appeal, during which the custody arrangement remained unchanged.

During later court hearings, the original juvenile court judge, William G. Boice, criticized Ms. Mattes and Wade for cooperating with the producers of a TV movie, “Two Mothers for Zachary,” which ultimately aired in 1996.

Ms. Mattes’s lawyer said she was not paid for the film.

In 1995, the case of Bottoms v. Bottoms reached the Virginia Supreme Court. In a 4-to-3 decision, the court determined that the “moral climate” in Ms. Mattes’s home made her “an unfit custodian at this time.”

Her mother was granted permanent custody of Tyler.

“Living daily under conditions stemming from active lesbianism practiced in the home,” Justice A. Christian Compton wrote, “may impose a burden upon a child by reason of the ‘social condemnation’ attached to such an arrangement.”

Conservative groups hailed the decision as a victory for traditional moral values. Gay rights groups were outraged.

“Not that long ago, there were courts that ruled that being lesbian, gay or bisexual meant you couldn’t be a parent to your own children,” James Esseks, an ACLU lawyer overseeing gay rights cases, said Saturday in an interview. “It is shocking to people today.”

In 1996, Ms. Mattes abandoned her legal fight. She gave no more interviews for the rest of her life.

Sharon Lynne Bottoms was born Feb. 20, 1970. Little is known of her early years in Virginia or what happened after her court battle ended in 1996.

According to Facebook posts, she married Bill Mattes in 2012. She was the co-owner of a kennel in North Carolina.

Her son, now 27, served in the military and lives in Virginia. He posted a tribute to his mother on Facebook.

In addition to her husband and son, survivors include her mother; her husband’s three children; a brother; and a grandson.

“We don’t regret this fight, but we feel it’s something we shouldn’t have to go through,” Ms. Mattes told the New York Times in 1995, in one of her final public statements. “I deserve my baby. I gave birth to him. I want him.”

School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group honor her struggle and regret her inability to obtain justice.

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Your Voice Counts: New Title IX Draft Rule on School Sexual Violence & How to Draft a Comment

By now you have likely heard that the U.S. Department of Education recently published a proposed Title IX regulation that would fundamentally change schools’ responsibilities to respond to sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence in our K-12 schools and college campuses. Right now, it is only a draft rule and there is an opportunity for anyone in the public to voice your opinion during the formal Notice and Comment period until January 28.

The Fierberg National Law Group invites you to a webinar to learn about the proposed rule and how to write and submit a comment.

The webinar is Wednesday, December 19th, 2:00-3:30 PM EST and will be hosted by the Ending Violence Against Women Project of CDAC and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault and features national Title IX expert and TFNLG attorney, Cari Simon.

Register Here: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/540751208931213827

#handsofftitleix #titleix #knowyourix @universityeeo 

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The Number of Student-on-Student Sexual Violence Complaints in Chicago Schools is Terrifying

624 Sex Assault Complaints at Chicago Schools This Semester

Associated Press
November 29 at 1:07 PM

CHICAGO — A new office created to look into cases of sexual abuse in Chicago’s public schools after an investigation revealed that the officials had failed to adequately do so has received nearly 500 allegations of student-on-student sexual violence in less than three months.

The Office of Student Protections and Title IX that was created after the Chicago Tribune found broad lapses in how the nation’s third-largest school district protected students from sexual abuse, physical assault, and harassment, including by school employees, since 2011.

On Wednesday, district officials told the City Council’s education committee that in addition to the hundreds of recent allegations of student-on-student sexual violence, they had received 133 reports of alleged misconduct by adults — many of whom work for the district. The district’s deputy general counsel, Douglas Henning said the reports reflect a growing willingness to report sexual abuse.

“We’re in a world now where if you see something that makes you uncomfortable, that you think is wrong, you absolutely have to report that,” she told the committee.

The fact that hundreds of reports were made in a matter of weeks also raises questions about how many more children have been victims of sexual violence — both in the city and around the country.

Last year, The Associated Press reported that more than a third of the states don’t track student sexual assaults and that some of the nation’s biggest school districts reported zero sexual assaults over a multi-year period.

The Chicago school district created its office after the Tribune published its “Betrayed” series that looked into how the district had been dealing with such allegations. Among other things, the new office must forward adult-related complaints it receives to the district’s inspector general. It also has reviewed background checks on tens of thousands of district workers, vendors and volunteers that resulted in 128 employees being fired, recommended for dismissal or resigning under scrutiny.

Some aldermen expressed anger about the way the district is going about protecting students.

“This Office of Student Protections? Their schools should be the office of student protections,” said Alderman Susan Sadlowski Garza, who is also a member of the Chicago Teachers Union. “When you walk into that building, your school should protect you. You should have a counselor full time, social worker full time.”

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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SLAIN UNIVERSITY OF UTAH ATHLETE HAD TOLD SCHOOL OF EX-BOYFRIEND’S HARASSMENT

The Washington Post | By Matt Bonesteel and Cindy Boren | October 24, 2018 7:40AM

Lauren McCluskey, the University of Utah track and field athlete who was found shot to death Monday night in a car outside a campus residence hall, had broken off her relationship with the prime suspect when she discovered that he was a registered sex offender.

Melvin Rowland, 37, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound inside a church near downtown Salt Lake City and McCluskey’s mother told university police that he had been harassing her 21-year-old daughter since their Oct. 9 breakup.

University police chief Dale Brophy said in a Tuesday news conference that officers could not find Rowland in the days leading up to the shooting and added that Rowland had walked away from a halfway house for parolees. However, a Department of Corrections official told the Salt Lake Tribune that officials knew where he was living. The official added that university police had not passed along information that McCluskey had accused Rowland, who had repeatedly been returned to prison for parole violations, of harassing her.

“We have no notification of any of that,” Kaitlin Felsted, a spokeswoman for the DOC, told the Tribune, and the department he had been living at the Salt Lake City address listed on the sex offender registry.

In a statement released Tuesday morning, McCluskey’s mother, Jill, described her daughter’s final moments.

“[Monday] night a little before 9 p.m., she was returning to her university apartment from her night class and talking to me on the phone,” she said. “Suddenly, I heard her yell, “No, no, no!” I thought she might have been in a car accident. That was the last I heard from her. My husband called 911. I kept the line open, and in a few minutes, a young woman picked up the phone and said all of Lauren’s things were on the ground.”

University police responded to a report of a possible abduction about 8:20 p.m., and after reports of gunshots, they discovered McCluskey’s body around 1:30 a.m. in a car parked outside the south tower of the Medical Plaza.

Jill McCluskey detailed Rowland’s harassment in her statement.

“He lied to her about his name, his age, and his criminal history,” she said in the statement obtained by Shara Park of KSL-TV. “Lauren was informed by a friend about his criminal history, and she ended the relationship with her killer on October 9, 2018. He had borrowed her car, and she requested for the University of Utah police accompany her on October 10, 2018 to get the car back. She blocked his and his friends’ phone numbers and complained to University of Utah police that she was being harassed.”

Lauren McCluskey competed in the pentathlon and heptathlon for the University of Utah. (University of Utah photo)

Police did not comment on how Rowland obtained the gun and was asked whether enough had been done to protect McCluskey. “I want the answer to that question as well,” Brophy said, “and when we have it, I’ll share it with you.”

Rowland was described by Felsted as being “not fully compliant” with his parole, but his violations were not serious enough to warrant an automatic return to prison. “He was working with his agent to get through those” violations, Felsted said.

Lauren McCluskey, a senior from Pullman, Wash., who was majoring in communications, competed in the pentathlon and heptathlon. According to her team bio, she ranks 10th all-time at Utah in the pentathlon (3,181 points) and was a named Pac-12 all-Academic team honorable mention in 2017. Her mother said she was set to graduate in May and had a 3.75 grade-point average.

“Last night, the University of Utah lost one of our own,” Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan said in a statement. “Senior track standout Lauren McCluskey was tragically killed in a senseless act. This news has shaken not only myself but our entire University of Utah athletics family to its core. We have university counselors and psychologists on standby to support Lauren’s teammates, coaches and friends. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and all of those dear to her.”

Read More at The Washington Post

The entire staff at School Violence Law and The Fierberg National Law Group extend our sincere condolences to the family of Lauren McCluskey.

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Penn State Frat Hit by Judge’s Statewide Ban in Hazing Case

Pi Delta Psi fraternity faces a 10 year ban from operating any chapters in Pennsylvania.

Doug Fierberg, who has represented many clients in lawsuits against fraternities and is representing the Dengs in multiple civil suits against Pi Delta Psi and its members, also was heartened by the rulings.

“It recognizes that chapters are agents and mere extensions of national fraternities and they are responsible for the injury and death caused across this country for decades,” he said.

Access more on Philly.com

Click here for more posts hazing.

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Michael Deng Case: Fraternity, Four Men to be Sentenced in Hazing Death

Dangerous Practices at a Pi Delta Psi fraternity resulted in the hazing death of pledge Michael Deng. Doug Fierberg, an attorney for Deng’s family, said prosecutors in the Piazza case could learn from the outcome of the Deng case and Pi Delta Psi case sentencing.
“These are two of the higher-profile circumstances involving the prosecution of hazing,” said Fierberg. Prosecutors in the Piazza case, he said, “might as well learn” from the outcome of the Deng case.

Fierberg said he expects the Deng case “will help clarify” some things ahead of the Piazza case and could set “a number of precedents.”

Read more on CNN.

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Indiana State University Freshman, Yiorgo Karnezis, Fatally Falls From Boat at Sigma Chi Fraternity Event

School Violence Law extends our deepest sympathies to the family of Yiorgo Karnezis.

Yiorgo Karnezis, Indiana State University, Sigma Chi Fraternity
Friends, family, and the Sycamore community gather to celebrate Karnezis’ life with a candlelight vigil.

Yiorgo Karnezis – the Indiana State University freshman who lost his life after falling from a boat at a Sigma Chi fraternity event in Illinois – was celebrated by family, friends, and community at a candle light vigil in Sycamore, Indiana. 

Douglas Fierberg – a nationally renowned wrongful death attorney who has brought suit against universities, national fraternities, and local chapter members for student deaths – cautions:

“Even if a party is held at an off-campus location, the hosts and the organization may still be liable.”

School Violence Law specializes in representing victims of similar tragedies associated with fraternities, as such, our hope is that the Karnezis family finds answers related to how this terrible loss transpired.

Our thoughts are with Yiorgo’s family and community during this extremely difficult time.

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National Hazing Prevention Week

September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM).

NCSAM received the unanimous support of congress in 2008. Each September, the Clery Center partners with colleges, universities, and other organizations to offer campus safety resources, programming, and ideas.

Although headlines capture the best- and worst- of the field, there’s one thing the Clery Center knows to be true: people don’t function well in fear; individuals make the best decisions when they are informed, offered support, and are confident in their knowledge and skills.

Keeping this in mind, the Clery Center is continuing its practice of dedicating National Campus Safety Awareness month to providing professional development resources and opportunities that can help practitioners move forward on their own campuses.

In accordance with National Hazing Prevention Week, the Clery Center is featuring resources (below) for general audiences (students, parents, etc.) who wish to understand and communicate effectively about hazing, and learn strategies for bystander intervention.

Show the Clery Center what you’re doing for #NCSAM2016 and let’s continue #movingforwardtogether!

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School Violence Law Represents Georgia High School Student Suspended After Reporting Her Sexual Assault

Title IX Complaint filed due to school district’s gross mishandling of sexual assault on a freshman student.gwinnett county public schools, slate, sexual assault, high school sexual assault

The assault our client endured, and the school administration’s reaction thereafter, is chronicled by Slate contributor Nora Caplan-Bricker, in a piece entitled, My School Punished Me.”

In the gripping article (below) Caplan-Bricker discusses the complaint itself while simultaneously casting a spotlight on the larger issue of sexual assault and Title IX mismanagement occurring all too frequently in K-12 schools across the nation.

Peachtree Ridge High School is a low-slung concrete building in Suwanee, Georgia, an affluent suburb north of Atlanta. School had just gotten out on Feb. 4, 2015, and a 16-year-old sophomore was waiting just inside the main entrance for her mother to pick her up, she says, when a male classmate approached and said he wanted to show her some video equipment. She says that she followed him into the school’s newsroom, just down the hall, where he allegedly coerced her into performing oral sex.

The next morning, the female student did something unusual for a sexual assault victim: She went straight to her first-period teacher and, in tears, reported the incident. (Since both parties are minors whose names have never appeared in the press, Slate is protecting their privacy and will refer to the alleged victim by her initials, T.M.) What followed was at least as disturbing as the event she detailed, according to a legal complaint that T.M.’s family submitted to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The Peachtree Ridge resource officer who first questioned T.M. set the tenor of the school’s investigation when he asked her to describe what she was wearing at the time of the assault, according to the complaint, which the family’s lawyers provided to Slate. The complaint says the officer also requested that she explain why she didn’t fight off her assailant: “Why didn’t you bite his penis and squeeze his balls?” he allegedly asked. (The resource officer did not respond to a request for comment, nor did other school administrators named in the complaint, or the two teachers to whom T.M. originally reported the incident.)

The complaint states that within days, T.M. and her parents were informed that she would be suspended, as would the boy, until the school could conduct a joint disciplinary hearing. There, she and the alleged perpetrator, or their legal representatives, would cross-examine each other. If T.M. couldn’t prove that what she’d experienced was assault, she would be disciplined along with the boy for engaging in sexual activity on school grounds, a violation of Peachtree’s rules.

“We begged and pleaded with the superintendent to hold the hearing for each one separately, so that it would be less traumatizing,” T.M.’s father told me. “We even considered not having her attend at all.” But not showing up would have resulted in an automatic finding of guilt. They weighed “the moral thing of what’s right—is it right to let that boy get away with it? Is it right to not try to hold the school accountable?” T.M.’s father says. “In the end, we decided, and [T.M.] decided, that she wanted to try to stand up for herself. Of course, that did no good whatsoever.”

“I really wish my school would have helped me instead of looking out for itself,” T.M. wrote to me in a statement. “The school took advantage of me, and that wasn’t fair. … The school should have pulled my attacker out of school and put him somewhere else, far away from me.”

Read More

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