LISTEN: The unnamed plaintiff alleges mishandling and retaliation by the school district for a reported sexual assault. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

Wayne County High School

Wayne County High School

Credit: Michael Rivera / Creative Commons

A former student at Wayne County High School in Jesup has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Wayne County School System, alleging sex discrimination in how it handled a reported sexual assault committed by a JROTC instructor against her.

The unnamed plaintiff, referred to in the lawsuit as Jane Doe to protect her privacy, wrote that she was sexually assaulted by JROTC instructor Harold Hill in October 2021 in the school's storage shed when she was attempting to return her drill rifle.

Hill, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, is facing charges of sexual battery, battery and false imprisonment in a separate state criminal case in which he has pleaded not guilty. Hill was allowed by WCSS to resign due to the incident, according to the federal lawsuit.

The plaintiff wrote that, during a physical examination of her after the alleged assault, her parents asked a school nurse to photograph her injuries, but that the nurse refused to do so because “she was not comfortable.”

The lawsuit also alleges that WCSS retaliated against the plaintiff for reporting the alleged assault by conducting a search of her car with a Jesup police detective and damaging it in the process, during which the school was placed under a full-scale lockdown.

WCSS also failed to implement supportive measures for the student when she returned to school after the alleged assault, according to the lawsuit, including failing to escort her to her classes. She wrote that the school district failed to intervene when classmates bullied her about the incident.

A different JROTC instructor in 2022 led a class discussion about rape, according to the lawsuit, and said that “women get raped more often than men because they do not wear enough clothes.” After the plaintiff's father met with Wayne County High School principal Brett McDaniel about the instructor's remarks, McDaniel “did not do anything to address the issue.”

The plaintiff wrote that WCSS violated her civil rights under Title IX — a provision of federal law which prohibits sex discrimination in schools — and her equal protection rights under the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

WCSS superintendent Sean Kelly did not respond to GPB's request for comment by the school district on the lawsuit.

The plaintiff is seeking a jury trial and monetary damages. A federal judge has ordered the defendants to meet with the plaintiff to discuss a plan for discovery and the possibility of a settlement or other resolution to the case.