A federal judge has ruled five lawsuits by five former students who say a Baltimore County private school ignored their reports of sexual assault and harassment can go forward, rejecting the school’s claim that it’s not subject to Title IX requirements because it didn’t receive federal funds during the years covered by the cases.
Title IX of the federal Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination, including sexual harassment and assault, in federally funded schools.
Concordia Preparatory School in Towson sought to dismiss some of the claims made by the former students, who say the school didn’t act on their complaints, which they made between 2016 and 2021.
U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett denied the school’s motion on Thursday, saying that because it operated as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, that constituted a form of federal financial assistance.
“We were very surprised by the ruling and intend to appeal it as far as is necessary,” said Gregg Viola, a lawyer representing the school, in an email Monday.
Formerly known as Baltimore Lutheran School, Concordia is affiliated with the Lutheran Church, which is a defendant in three of the five lawsuits. The complaints describe a culture of sexual assault and harassment at the school that allegedly went ignored by administrators.
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The Baltimore Lutheran High School Association, which also is named in the lawsuits, is affiliated with the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Southeastern District. John Denniger, the district president, said any statement would come from their attorney and declined to comment further.
Plaintiffs in all five suits are represented by Christina Graziano of Ketterer, Browne & Anderson. The Baltimore Sun typically does not identify victims of sexual assault.
“This ruling will serve to ensure accountability under federal law,” Graziano said in an email Friday.
The Association of Independent Maryland & DC Schools, an organization consisting of 120 pre-collegiate institutions and 50,000 students in total, including Concordia, did not address the ruling directly in a emailed statement on Monday.
All AIMS institutions are incorporated not-for-profit organizations and governed by a board of trustees.
“AIMS does not provide legal advice, but it supports member schools in designing and implementing robust and effective procedures to prevent harassment and misconduct and to thoroughly investigate any allegation that may arise,” Executive Director Peter Baily said in the statement.
As a result, Baily said he was not able to comment on the possible implications the ruling may have on AIMS institutions.