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PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Oregon City High School’s principal will resign, effective at the end of the school year, in the wake of an assembly that caused a student to suffer “severe emotional distress” according to a newly filed lawsuit.
Oregon City School District officials have apologized for the assembly broadcasting a video in which a student admitted to abusing his ex-girlfriend, referred to as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit. Jane Doe will lose educational opportunities amid the damage to her name and reputation caused by the “negligent” Voices Assembly, according to the lawsuit asking for $832,000 in damages.
“OCSD broadcast her abuser and his admissions of abuse and assaults to its 2,100 students and OCSD’s 150 employees,” the lawsuit said. “Prior to the Voices Assembly, student members of the Unity Committee at Oregon City High School, which sponsored the Voices Assembly, told multiple administrators not to allow the sharing of John Doe’s story. Oregon City High School administrators ignored and disregarded the student members of the Unity Committee protestations about sharing John Doe’s story.”
OCHS parents and students have told the school officials that John and Jane Doe were immediately identified by numerous students.
Carey Wilhelm, whose three-year stint as OCHS principal was only half as long as her predecessor’s tenure in the position, cited the “challenging times both personally and professionally” in offering her resignation.
In announcing an investigation last month, Interim Superintendent Kyle Laier said that the district is considering discipline against OCHS staff for their handling of the assault video. He said this month that the school district cannot comment on current litigation.
“However, the district is dedicated to the safe education of its students and will remain committed to providing a safe and positive educational setting,” Laier said. “It will continue to evaluate and implement policies and practices necessary to accomplish this goal. Protecting the health and welfare of students remains a top priority for the district.”
Several parents returned to the school board meeting this month to again protest the district’s handling of the video. Liz Banta, who teaches at a nearby high school, said that OCHS administrators failed in their duty to protect the welfare of students.
“The adult that approved this video failed hugely, and they need to be held accountable,” Banta said. “How will this young woman be able to trust anyone, when those employed to protect her have so profoundly shown her otherwise?”
OCHS junior Azalinn Ennis started a petition receiving more than 3,000 change.org supporters calling for Wilhelm’s removal as principal.
“This petition is not only for school abuse survivors, it’s for every victim of physical, mental and sexual assault of any kind,” Ennis wrote in the petition. “Wilhelm and the administration of Oregon City High School has never done enough for their students, but we can.”
Wilhelm declined to comment on the petition, referring questions from Pamplin Media Group to her previous statement of resignation.
“As a school community, we have experienced a significant amount of change that has provided us opportunities to learn and grow,” she wrote to OCHS parents. “Each and everyone of you inspires and amazes me for the passion you have for this school, our students and the community.”
Wilhelm’s email noted she “decided to pursue other opportunities” after her last school year as principal.
“I have enjoyed working with all of you, learning from you, and have made some lifelong friendships that I will treasure forever,” she wrote. “I look forward to finishing the year off strong and continuing to work together to support our students.”