A former student and his parents filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the Chelmsford public school system and its employees failed to take sufficient steps to protect the student from a sexual assault at a school-sponsored football camp and from subsequent bullying and harassment by teachers and other students at Chelmsford High School (CHS). The case alleges negligence, among other federal and state law violations. The defendants–the Town of Chelmsford, the Chelmsford School Committee (CSC), and various other school officials–moved to dismiss. Last month, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted in part and denied in part the motions to dismiss.The case alleges that for years, CHS embraced a culture that put winning first and encouraged bullying and harassment of student-athletes to make them “tough enough” to win championships. The Town, the CSC, and the former Superintendent allegedly knew about and condoned this “winning” sports culture, in which ordinary rules did not apply to star athletes.
In September 2012, the victim enrolled as a freshman at CHS. He was a special-needs student with an Individualized Education Plan under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In October 2012, during freshman football, three students forced another student to urinate in the victim’s cleats. The family reported the incident to the athletic director, and the three students were suspended for one game.
In August 2013, CHS held its annual football camp at Camp Robindel in New Hampshire. The students stayed in bunkhouses with no regular adult supervision, despite CHS having knowledge of hazing and bullying that took place at past football camps. In the bunkhouse, the victim was hit in the face with powder, and the video recording was posted to social media. He had his food, iPod, and cellphone stolen. He was pelted with milk and repeatedly picked up by his underwear. The lawsuit alleges the hazing culminated in at least three of the victim’s teammates holding him down and raping him with a broomstick.