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Lawsuit says Towson’s Concordia Preparatory School ignored student’s reports of assault, harassment on campus

The family of a former Concordia Preparatory School student has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the private Towson school ignored reports that she was repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted on campus.

The complaint, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, states that Concordia’s administrators and staff failed to investigate when a sexually explicit video of the underage girl — taken without her consent — was circulated around the student body. Male students then repeatedly harassed the teen, who was later sexually assaulted in a religion class and a locker room, the suit states.

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The student, her sibling and another schoolmate detailed the incidents to Concordia administrators and staff, according to the suit, and the plaintiffs allege that the school failed to take action, promptly report the incidents to law enforcement or inform the girl’s parents.

Asked about the lawsuit, Baltimore County police said Friday they are re-opening an investigation “based on the new information.”

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Concordia officials denied the allegations in the lawsuit and plan to “vigorously defend against it," school spokeswoman Jane Ponton said in an email Thursday.

“The safety and wellbeing of its students, faculty, and staff are of utmost concern to Concordia Preparatory School,” Ponton said in the email. “CPS does not tolerate disregard of its code of conduct and sexual harassment policy. CPS thoroughly investigates all alleged violations and promptly takes appropriate responsive action.”

Ponton declined to comment further on the litigation.

The student’s family believes the Concordia officials' inaction was “in keeping with the culture there,” said their attorney, Christina Graziano of Ketterer, Browne & Anderson. The Sun typically does not identify victims of sexual assault.

“She wants to be the last girl that this happens to," Graziano said of the teen.

Graziano said law enforcement officials in Harford County, where the family lives, were aware of the criminal allegations in the suit.

A representative of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office said the department does not have an open investigation related to the claims. The Baltimore County Police Department did not return a message about the allegations Thursday.

The suit states the incidents began in January 2018, when a male classmate allegedly filmed a sexually explicit video of the girl without her knowledge and shared the footage with other students.

A school guidance counselor called a meeting with the girl to discuss “rumors” she had heard, according to the lawsuit, but did not inform her parents of the video.

The guidance counselor later told the student that she had told a Concordia administrator of the video, but no action was taken.

The lawsuit states the male student who recorded the video was later expelled from Concordia for unrelated reasons.

The girl soon began receiving phone calls from two male students threatening to post the video to social media if she did not perform oral sex or engage in other sexual acts with them, according to the suit. The callers also threatened to release additional photos and videos of the girl performing sexual acts. One of the threats was heard by the girl’s sibling, the suit states, and another female student also reported threats.

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Schoolmates, including middle school students who saw the video, began to bully the teen, who was forced to change her phone number and avoid harassment on social media.

In February 2018, the lawsuit states a male student athlete stuck his hand up the girl’s skirt during a religion class. The teen told him to stop and left the classroom to tell an administrator about the incident and, later, the guidance counselor — neither of whom took further action, the suit says.

The student athlete continued to verbally and physically harass the teen on Concordia grounds.

On April 13, 2018, a senior lured the girl to a locker room and pressured her to perform oral sex on him. A group of male students who were waiting in the locker room then pushed the girl to the back of the room, turned out the lights and barricaded the door, the suit states.

The same student athlete from the religion class groped the girl from behind and attempted to digitally rape her while rubbing her hand against his genitals, the suit says. She repeatedly told the male students to stop and attempted to claw her way out of the student athlete’s grip, according to the suit, and she escaped when another student intervened.

The girl reported the incident to Concordia administrators the next day, but according to the suit the school failed to take action — despite the use of electronic key cards that would have made it possible to track which students entered the locker room — and did not inform the girl’s parents.

During the course of these incidents, the girl’s grades suffered significantly and she began seeing a counselor for post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and depression. She also engaged in self-harming behavior and promiscuity, which is attributed clinically to her sexual assault, the suit states.

At one point, the teen used the term “sexual assault” during a meeting with the Concordia guidance counselor, and the suit states she was told “you shouldn’t call it that.”

The teen switched schools, but eventually transitioned to homeschooling when the bullying followed her to her new high school, according to the suit.

The family’s lawsuit claims the school violated Title IX of the Education Amendments Act and discriminated against the teen. The family has requested a jury trial and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as the cost of the lawsuit.

Concordia Preparatory School was founded in 1965 as Baltimore Lutheran School and serves students in grades 6-12.

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