January 22, 2022
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On Dec. 31, 2021, a lawsuit was filed against Muleshoe Independent School District for sex discrimination under Title IX. MISD Superintendent Dr. R.L. Richards received the lawsuit on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022.

Richards said sexual harassment is covered in the school handbook and that all staff receives ethics training.

“As soon as school administrators suspected there might have been a violation of policy or wrongdoing, we began to initiate the process per school board policy and state law,” Richards said. “Muleshoe schools keep student safety as a huge priority.”

According to the court filing document, in August 2018, Stephanie Leeann Lowery, a coach and reading teacher at Watson Junior High, resigned her position with the school. She was charged and MISD issued a statement at that time saying she resigned, and the situation was taken to law enforcement agencies for investigation.

Lowery has been listed since October 2020 with the Texas Sex Offender Registry, and she is required to register for a lifetime. The offense listed was sexual assault.

The student, a male, was 16 and a high school student at the time. He has since graduated.

The lawsuit alleges that Lowery had been grooming him since he was in junior high.

According to the lawsuit filed with the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, Lubbock Division, Case 5:21-cv-00313-H, once the student was in high school, Lowery frequently visited him at the high school campus, playing basketball with him at the school’s basketball courts and eating lunch with him.

The document claims that Lowery’s interactions with Plaintiff were observed by other students, teachers, coaches and administrators. It further states that Lowery invited Plaintiff to her home, where she initiated sexual contact with him. It also states that she bought beer and shared a hotel room with him in Ruidoso.

Shortly after that, Lowery resigned, but continued to text Plaintiff, and sent him a handwritten letter that read in part, “Please tell me this was not all in my head and that you truly care too.”

The document states that in June 2018, Richards called Plaintiff and his father in for a meeting to discuss Lowery.

“Dr. Richards told Plaintiff that events would be kept quiet, but Dr. Richards did not offer resources, such as counseling, or acknowledge that Lowery’s conduct affected Plaintiff.”

The document further states that Plaintiff returned to school in the fall of 2018 to a hostile campus environment.

“Despite the Superintendent’s promises, MISD staff knew of and harassed Plaintiff about Lowery’s conduct. The harassment extended to Plaintiff’s two younger sisters …

“MISD failed to assist or aid Plaintiff and his family from the ongoing harassment brought about by Lowery’s conduct. Plaintiff spent his last two years of high school feeling angry and alone.”

The document details two other incidents of past sexual misconduct by Muleshoe High School teachers, saying, “Based on information and belief, prior to Lowery’s sexual assaults of Plaintiff, MISD had a history of inappropriate sexual relationships between students and teachers.”

In a section titled “Violation of Law and Policy,” the document states that MISD “failed to properly train and educate its employees … in the appropriate response to allegations of sexual harassment, sexual abuse and retaliatory conduct, as well as the implementation of mandated Title IX policy and procedures.”

It further states that “MISD failed to educate MISD students, including Plaintiff, on the dangers of inappropriate educator-student relationships, sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

The document details two counts of Discrimination on the Basis of Gender, one count of violation of Plaintiff’s rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and one count of violation of the Due Process Clause under the law of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Plaintiff has demanded a jury trial seeking damages, punitive damages, costs, interests, attorney’s fees, statutory civil penalties according to law, and such other relief as the court deems appropriate and just.

BY GAIL M. WILLIAMS

Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

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