Blog : Washington DC

Amid Alleged Broomstick Hazing Ritual Scandal, Damascus High Principal Resigns, JV Football Coach & Athletic Director Placed on Leave

When a JV high school football team,  thought to be like a family, allegedly commits the tradition of “broomstick” hazing to new teammates, the story is going to draw ongoing negative media attention…

Yesterday, the principal of Damascus High School in Maryland announced her resignation as a result of the alleged October 2018 “broomstick” hazing and rape of junior varsity football team members at the school.

This announcement follows news that the Damascus High’s JV football coach, Vincent Colbert, who was reported as the first school official to know about the attack (and that the school system waited hours to alert police) was placed on leave last month as part of the ongoing investigation…and later last night, a letter to coaches announced that the athletic director was also put on leave.

This heartbreaking news of hazing and sexual assault in high school is reminiscent of the suit School Violence Law & The Fierberg National Law Group filed on behalf of the Ooltewah High School rape victim who was sodomized with a pool-cue by teammates.

Read our first Blog article regarding the Damascus alleged hazing here.

Follow the ongoing coverage at The Washington Post, WTOP  and CBS NEWS.

 

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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 Devastating Effects of the Ill-Conceived Proposed Title IX Changes

By Douglas Fierberg & Elizabeth Munoz

The Trump Administration’s ill-conceived proposed changes to Title IX will have devastating effects on the hard-fought progress made on decreasing sexual assaults on college campuses and encouraging survivors to report such misconduct.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, approximately 80% of rapes and sexual assaults are not reported.  That number is alarming, for obvious reasons.  Yet, the proposed regulations make both the reporting process and the investigation even more challenging, confrontational and threatening, further discouraging survivors from coming forward and decreasing the ability for justice for survivors.

First, rather than the current “preponderance of evidence” standard, which requires that the wrongdoing is proven as being more likely than not (over 50%), the regulations increase this standard to “clear and convincing,” which is a significantly higher burden of proof. 

There is no valid reason for increasing the required burden of proof for alleged sexual violence, when all other misconduct, including violent and deadly criminal acts, are judged in school disciplinary hearings by a preponderance of the evidence.  For example, a student defending himself in school disciplinary proceedings for allegedly killing, maiming, assaulting, stalking, etc., another student may be found responsible if his culpability is established by a preponderance of the evidence.  Were he charged with an act of sexual violence, though, the government and Secretary DeVos believe his responsibility should be established only by the higher standard of clear and convincing evidence.  Why the difference?  Historical and wrongful gender bias, pure and simple.  The fact is that men (the overwhelming majority of offenders) and women presently have numerous rights to defend themselves at school hearings, and appeal adverse findings to multiple levels of oversight. The idea that alleged offenders presently lack due process in defending themselves is pure fiction.

Second, the current disciplinary systems at schools permit extensive questioning of the survivor and accused to challenge their respective accounts and testimony, though under reasonably controlled circumstances. 

Most often, this involves presenting questions to the judicial panel to be posed to the other party for purposes of exposing inconsistencies or other shortcomings in their claims.  This keeps the proceedings civil and meaningful.  The proposed regulations would essentially set the dogs loose by allowing the representatives of the accused to directly cross-examine, attack and intimidate the survivor with questions that have not been subjected to any prior review by the judicial panel.  The foreseeable result is that survivors will face scathing, wholly irrelevant, abusive and inadmissible questions before the panel even has an opportunity to prevent the abusive questioning.  One simple example where this will certainly cause harm and havoc to survivors is when the accused will invariably seek to use a survivor’s other sexual relationships to prove his own innocence.  Virtually every state and court either prohibits this line of inquiry entirely under so-called Rape Shield statutes or severely limits and closely supervises this line of questioning because of its general irrelevance and abusiveness.  But, by allowing direct questioning by the accused and his representatives, the regulations will undoubtedly result in this type of abuse, which, like bruises, do not simply disappear after the beating stops.

Third, the proposed guidelines change the definition of sexual harassment to be an event, “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity.”

Yet, the question of what constitutes sexual abuse and harassment are so often inextricably connected to the specific, unique and subjective surrounding circumstances and persons involved.  It still matters that a young woman is regularly harassed at school by another student about her gender, body and physical appearance, even if she, for reasons particular to her, is more sensitive or vulnerable to such comments than other young women.  That the harassing comments regularly devastate her are not “objectively” offensive to others should not give the abuser a license to continue, and this is a long-settled principle of American law:  A wrongdoer is never deemed entitled to a healthy, strong victim by any actual or quasi-judicial forum in this country.   The wrongdoer is responsible even if his conduct might not have harmed others.

Finally, the proposed regulations lessen the responsibility of schools to protect students to misconduct that occurs on campus, exempting the wide-range of misconduct that takes place in off-campus fraternity houses, other school-related locations, parties and events, even though a substantial portion of sexual assaults occur in these circumstances,[1]  and such misconduct invariably carries onto campus because that’s where the assailant and survivor reside and attend classes. 

It’s on campus – in the dormitories, classrooms, cafeterias, libraries and at school events – that the survivor faces the presence, threat and terrifying harassment of the assailant and, often, his friends and supporters.  It is this threat, unchecked and unresolved, that causes so many survivors academic harm, exclusion, and other damages.  There are absolutely no legal or moral bases for permitting schools to protect a survivor’s educational rights in this circumstance.

Considerable institutional, societal, and structural barriers are already in place which discourages survivors of assault from reporting their assault.  Likewise, those and other structures provide due process, meaningful hearings, and appeals to persons accused of engaging in sexual violence and misconduct.  The proposed regulations do not fix real problems in the system.  Instead, if implemented, they are sure to further discourage survivors from reporting sexual assaults, harm them when they pursue valid claims, and pave the way for numerous assailants to evade responsibility for their misconduct.

[1] The principal insurer and risk-management company for universities conducted a study that found that 41% of assaults occur at off-campus parties.

 

To offer your input, please go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID “ED-2018-OCR-0064” or “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance” to begin the process and click on the option to “Comment Now”. Comments are accepted as a text entry or uploaded document, either Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF (text-searchable preferred) and should include the Docket ID. Please note that all submitted comments are made publicly available online, so do not include anything you don’t want to be made public.

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Broomstick Hazing Ritual – Damascus, Md. High School JV Football Team Continues “Tradition”

Image result for american football imagesOne of the alleged victims told police that he had heard about the tradition of “brooming” when he was in middle school but thought it was a myth. When he pleaded for his attackers to stop, they told him it was tradition, according to the report.

Five boys on a Damascus Md. JV high school football team are facing various rape charges after allegedly using a broomstick to assault teammates as part of a “hazing” ritual.

The Washington Post obtained police reports describing the alleged attacks of four members of the Damascus High School junior varsity football team on Halloween.

“He thought the football team was supposed to be a family and look out for each other … and did not think they could do something that horrible,” the police report states.

The alleged attackers turned off the lights in the locker room before pinning down their victims, according to the report. Two of the victims escaped after being pinned down while a 14- and 15-year old were allegedly assaulted with a broomstick.

From The Washington Post:

Another victim told investigators that he was in the locker room, saw the first boy attacked and then heard the attackers say they were coming after him. They held him facedown over a bench and assaulted him with a broomstick for about 10 seconds, according to the incident report.

Three 15-year-olds have been charged with two counts of second-degree rape and two counts of attempted second-degree rape. Another boy stands charged with three counts of second-degree rape and another one count of second-degree rape, according to The Post.

All five are charged as juveniles.

Montgomery school officials told the Post that they were not aware of the systematic “hazing” alleged in the police report.

Complete story reported by Jason Owens at Yahoo Sports.

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Washington DC Serious Personal Injury Cases

Priscilla Halmon-Daniels v. The Experts, Inc., et al..  Represent the surviving widow of Arthur Lee Daniels, Sr. for wrongful death claims filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia arising out of the mass shooting at the Washington, D.C. Naval Yard on September 16, 2013.  The defense motion to dismiss was denied and the matter is proceeding towards trial.

Jacqueline “R,” individually, and on behalf of her minor son, “Ronnie” v. District of Columbia et al.   Represented the family of an 11 year old boy who was sexually assaulted at an overnight summer camp owned and operated by the District of Columbia.  The case was tried before a jury in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and resulted in a verdict in favor of our client in the amount of $550,000.  Published reports of this case and the trial may be reviewed in the May 30, 2005 and June 4, 2005 editions of the Washington Post. Media coverage of this case can be viewed here.

Kara “M,” individually, and on behalf of her minor son, “Nico” v. District of Columbia et al.  Represented family of a 12 year old boy who was sexually assaulted at an overnight summer camp owned and operated by the District of Columbia.  Suit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the District and others alleging civil rights violations (42 U.S.C. sec. 1983) and other common law claims.  The family accepted a substantial financial settlement. More about the case can be viewed here.

Client v. John Doe.  Represented young man who sustained a compound fracture and other significant injuries in an automobile accident caused by a negligent driver.  The case was settled pre-litigation for the maximum amount of available insurance.

Read More

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Washington DC School Sexual Assault Case

Jane Doe, a minor v. John Doe.  Represented the plaintiff Jane, who was raped at gunpoint in a local park.  Jane and John were classmates.  In a civil suit, Jane filed suit against John, claiming that evidence discovered after the rape indicated that he had set her up to be sexually assaulted by his friends.  Jane also claimed that John’s family had used its wealth and resources to arrange for John to leave the country and avoid suit before expiration of the statute of limitations.  After extensive pre-trial litigation and motions, John was located and served with the complaint.  His motions to dismiss the litigation were denied.  Jane obtained a substantial, confidential settlement shortly after discovery in the case began.

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Washington DC Commercial Claims and Torts

Client v. B. Associates, Inc.   Represented a homeowner against an architectural firm alleging that the firm was negligent in supervising the construction and payments to the general contractor for a substantial renovation of a historic Georgetown home. After a six day jury trial, the jury entered a verdict in favor of the homeowner in the amount of $160,000.

Brown v. Client Corporation (“CC”) et al.   Represented the defendant CC, a non-profit housing services and community advocate organization involved in assisting low and moderate income families with access to credit nationwide.  Suit was filed against CC on several legal theories in a verified complaint containing some 217 paragraphs of allegations.  The motion to dismiss the complaint filed on CC’s behalf was granted before the initial scheduling conference for the case.  Plaintiff’s subsequent motions to reconsider the order of dismissal in favor of CC were denied.

Client Corporation (“CC”) v. Dyer.  Represented CC, a prominent business in the field of association management.  Bergman alleged that one of its officers and directors, Dyer, had engaged in secret negotiations with a CC client for the purpose of obtaining his own contract with the client.  As a result, the client broke its contract with CC and transferred its business to a competing company secretly established by Dyer.  CC filed a claim against the client before the American Arbitration Association and was awarded all of its lost income from the contract.  CC filed a civil suit against Dyer, and the jury entered a substantial six figure verdict against Dyer for compensatory and punitive damages.  CC prevailed in two separate appeals filed by Dyer to overturn the jury’s verdict.

OTC v. Numerous Clients.   Represented numerous defendants, all of whom had been partners of a law firm that was sued by its landlord for an alleged breach of its commercial lease agreement.  The suit sought hundreds of thousands of dollars from these defendants.  Prior to trial, the defendants’ motion for summary judgment was granted, thereby dismissing the landlord’s claim.  The trial court’s order was successfully defended on appeal, although a portion of the landlord’s claim was reinstated.  That claim, however, was dismissed by the trial court as a result of another motion filed on behalf of defendants.  No further appeal was filed.

Client v. John and Jane Does.  Represented a home buyer in suit against the seller, real estate brokers, and brokerage firm alleging fraud and other misrepresentations for failing to disclose severe flooding problems with the property at the time of sale.  Defendants’ motions to dismiss the litigation were denied, and Client accepted a substantial settlement from all defendants prior to trial.

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Washington DC and Maryland Community Advocacy

Capitol Hill Restoration Society (“CHRS” and North Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association (“NLPNA”) .  For several years, two neighborhood associations and dozens of residents near the 1300 block of Constitution Avenue, N.E. fought a legal and economic battle with Trant Liquors. CHRS, NLPNA and the neighbors claimed that Trant destroyed the peace, order and quiet of their neighborhood by, among other things, selling fortified alcohol to visibly intoxicated patrons, by providing drug paraphernalia to customers, and by allowing its parking lot and immediate surrounds to be used for drug dealing and other illegal activities. Despite such allegations and proof, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for the District of Columbia renewed Trant’s license. Thereafter, Doug was engaged to represent the citizens in appeals to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. Two appeals to the Court of Appeals were successful. Trant lost its license, closed, and the property was converted to housing.

Logan Circle Citizens’ Association.   Represented the Association in its effort to cause revocation of a license by held by F&W Market to sell beer and wine. The Association claimed that the establishment destroyed its peace, order and quiet by harboring drug traffickers within the establishment. Undercover police officers testified to numerous drug purchases inside the establishment in front of the store’s owners. After several days of hearings, the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board revoked F&W Market’s license.

Dupont Circle Citizens’ Association.   Represented the Association in several highly contested neighborhood battles involving bars and restaurants holding alcoholic beverage licenses. Efforts to reduce the negative impact of these on residential properties, and in extending the scope of an area-wide moratorium on new licensed establishments, were successful.  Kalorama Citizens’ Association.   Represented the Association in its effort to establish a moratorium on the issuance of new alcoholic beverage licenses in the popular Adams Morgan area of the District of Columbia. The Association’s purpose in seeking the moratorium was to stem the growth of restaurants and bars in favor of creating opportunities for other neighborhood businesses to develop and thrive. The Association prevailed after several days of contested hearings before the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Lamond-Riggs Neighborhood Association (“LRNA”).   Represented the Association in its efforts to cause revocation of alcoholic beverage licenses to a number of establishments following an incident where a D.C. police officer was gunned-down in his vehicle outside a nightclub. The Association alleged that these establishments contributed to the drug-trade and violence in the neighborhood. The Association was successful in its efforts following numerous hearings before the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Condominium Association Residents v. Leisureworld. Senior citizen residents of this condominium association filed suit alleging that portions of the Association’s land were taken as a result of the defendants’ development of a neighboring condominium building. Residents of the Association alleged that their properties had lost value and important “green space,” and that critical access to their homes was being threatened by the development scheme. Settlement was reached compensating the Association and guaranteeing that access by its members to their homes would not be obstructed.

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