School system officials said in a statement that they were pleased with the outcome. “We are grateful that the Court has ruled in favor of the School Board and believe that the decision is legally sound,” the statement read.
Jesse R. Binnall, an attorney representing the male student, said he and his client are evaluating the possibility of an appeal.
The teenager said the school system treats male students facing sexual misconduct accusations more harshly than female students, violating federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in schools. The student also said the system violated his due-process rights.
But Judge Anthony J. Trenga of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia determined there was little evidence to back those claims. Trenga said in his decision that the student “was afforded the notice and opportunity to be heard” and that the student failed to provide sufficient evidence to support the argument that Fairfax schools acted in an unfair or biased way.
The Robinson case stems from a December incident in which the 18-year-old student who filed the lawsuit was near another male student who allegedly slapped a female student’s buttocks.
The female student filed a complaint with a school administrator, accusing both students of sexually harassing her for about a month before the incident, court papers say.
The male student said he and the young woman flirted with each other but said those encounters were consensual, according to the lawsuit. The male student described those interactions as “playfully” poking the female student in class and putting his arm around her. He denied sexually harassing the young woman.
Administrators suspended the male student, and school system administrators held a hearing on the female student’s complaint Dec. 21, according to court documents. The male student and his parents were not allowed to question his accuser or witnesses but presented their case and submitted statements from two character witnesses.
A hearing officer found the male student had violated the school system’s sexual harassment policy and reassigned him to Mountain View High, an alternative school.
Binnall, the male student’s attorney, described the process used by Fairfax schools to adjudicate sexual misconduct complaints as a “kangaroo court” where “students don’t have a real opportunity to be heard.”
The student, who wanted the federal court to clear his record, graduated from the alternative school in June, court papers say.
The Lake Braddock student sued amid a national reckoning over sexual misconduct, arguing the school system’s treatment of him was influenced by media reports that “suggest the pervasive nature of sexual assault committed by male students.”
A federal jury also sided with Fairfax schools in a case brought by a student who said she was sexually assaulted during an Oakton High band trip. She argued the school’s investigation was inadequate. The jury concluded that the teen was sexually harassed and that the experience was so severe it deprived her of educational access. But it found the Fairfax County School Board was not liable because it did not have “actual knowledge” of the encounter.
The Oakton student’s attorneys are seeking a new trial.