MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is suing West Lutheran High School in Plymouth, arguing the school permitted sexual assault and harassment of a student.

The department says a ninth-grader was sexually harassed and assaulted multiple times during the 2014-15 school year by multiple students. The human rights department says the school did not protect the student and retaliated against her by preventing her from returning for her tenth-grade year.

“Anyone who experiences sexual harassment, abuse, or violence deserves to be believed and supported the first time they tell someone and to be protected from future violence,” Hanna Laniado, interim executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said.

The department said it tried to conciliate with the school, but the attempts were unsuccessful, necessitating the filing of a lawsuit.

At the same time, the department announced a settlement with Ramsey County over a separate incident involving the sexual assault of a minor.

The victim was then a 16-year-old seasonal lifeguard who was sexually assaulted by her supervisor at a closed beach. The supervisor then drove her in a county vehicle to purchase Plan B. This case was during the summer of 2013.

The lifeguard reported the sexual assault to two supervisors but neither took action and the girl was assigned to work with the supervisor who assaulted her the following summer.

The victim talked with a third supervisor, who finally took action.

“Sexual assault is pervasive in our culture,” Rebecca Lucero, commissioner of the human rights department, said. “These two cases together demonstrate how it occurs everywhere. Living a life free of sexual assault and harassment is every Minnesotan’s civil right.”

Erin Hassanzadeh

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