Monte Francis reports.
The family of Audrie Pott, the 15-year-old Saratoga High School student who committed suicide last fall, days after she was allegedly sexually assaulted at a party, has filed a claim against the school district.
NBC Bay Area doesn't normally identify victims of sexual assault or suicide, but have used the girl’s name in this report with her parents’ permission. They are hoping the story will help prevent something like this from every happening to anyone else.
The Pott family attorney, Robert Allard, said in a statement Wednesday that the family filed the claim against the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District "primarily to preserve the family's rights to future legal action." The family has until September to file the actual lawsuit. The over-riding accusation is that school officials knew Audrie was being bullied by classmates and they failed to act.
The district issued a lengthy and detailed press release Wednesday. Superintendent Bob Mistele's office addressed many of the formerly unanswered questions about the school's involvement in the Pott case.
The release noted that the district has not been sued by the Pott's family. The district said "Attorneys for Audrie’s parents have only filed a pro forma claim against the district as a means of keeping open their options to sue at a later date. That was done on March 7 and was denied by the board of education. This is a common practice in situations where the guilt or innocence of the accused related to a public jurisdiction is still pending."
The district release also stated that the school did not know about the party or the alleged assault until after her death.
The school release said its internal investigation showed, "that she never reported or sought counseling for bullying before or after the alleged sexual assault. If she had, our staff would have reported it and taken preventative steps to stop it."
Legal analyst Steven Clark said the key for the family's possible lawsuit against the school is to prove the school know that Audrie was being bullied. Clark said even though the sexual assault happened off campus, it could still cause trouble for the district. "If the dissemination of the photographs and the bullying happened on campus then that’s something the school, perhaps, should have prevented," Clark said.
Allard said the claim "generally alleges that administrators were negligent in addressing the bullying Audrie Pott encountered while at Saratoga High School. "
This case came to light last week when three teenagers were arrested on sex assault charges stemming from an alleged attack on a classmate who got drunk at a house party last fall.
The victim, Audrie Pott, hanged herself days later. Her family claims the boys not only sexually assaulted her, but wrote messages on her body while she was unconscious and took photos of her that they later distributed to students at the school.
The family has also filed a wrongful death suit against the three boys; and the two adults who owned the Saratoga home where Audrie was allegedly assaulted.
Late Wednesday, Allard issued a statement in response to the district's press release, which read, in part, "We have now had an opportunity to review the response from the Los Gatos Saratoga
Unified School District. Our reaction is one of disgust and dismay since the District has
continued to resort to providing self-serving and misleading statements. Even to this
day, it is clear to us that the District is more interested in protecting its image than in
taking responsibility for its lack of actions in Audrie's case."