The Marine Military Academy was recently hit with a lawsuit alleging it violated the current Title IX laws when it ignored a former student’s bullying and harassment.
A Title IX lawsuit was filed against Marine Military Academy in Harlingen last week by a 17-year-old boy and his mother over allegations that the young man was retaliated against by the school when he reported his assigned roommate “hit, kicked, punched, and threatened to rape him on a daily basis.” The suit was filed in federal court in Brownsville and identifies the young man by his initials, N.M., throughout the court documents.
According to the lawsuit, N.M. has been attending the boarding school since August 2016. The school itself was founded in 1963 and is located “on the site of a former military base in Harlingen.” The school’s founding principles were to “create a place where the ideology of the Marine Corps, including concepts like leadership, discipline, and moral values, could be shared with adolescent males,” according to the suit. It’s important to note, however, that the school isn’t officially affiliated with the U.S. Marine Corps, though it “does receive federal funding to pay for military uniforms and the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program.”
Because it receives federal funding, the school is required to “follow the requisites of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.” That specific law states the following:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
What happened, though? Why was the suit filed and how was the student retaliated against? For starters, the complaint alleges N.M. “suffered from severe mental and emotional stress as a result of the bullying, lasting an entire school year and several days into the former student’s second year.” The complaint also alleges the student was “afraid to report the bullying to his parents in San Antonio, as Drill Instructors scan all letters.” Because first-year students do not have access to electronics, letters were the only way N.M. had to notify his mother of the abuse during his first year at the academy. As a result, he was left to endure bullying and threats from two roommates. Additionally, the suit claims he was “ambushed and assaulted by four cadets, among a series of other incidents.”
As if that’s not bad enough, the complaint claims academy officials failed to properly address the bullying and instead allegedly “reprimanded N.M. for going past his chain of command.” It turns out that his superior officer happened to be his roommate, “who was simultaneously the perpetrator of the repeated harassment.” Eventually, the bullying incidents grew in severity until N.M. was placed on suicide watch and taken home by his mother in his second year. From there, he was transferred to a long-term mental health facility where he was diagnosed with symptoms of PTSD, catatonia, anxiety, and major depressive disorder, according to the suit.
Due to the bullying and retaliation, the suit argues N.M. was a victim under the Title IX law, which means the student is a “member of the protected class as defined under the law and the school must be on notice as to the allegations of harassment.” To qualify as a victim under the Title IX law, N.M. has to prove that the academy was “deliberately indifferent” to the allegations in the suit and that he “experienced deprivation of educational opportunities alongside other damages.”
When commenting on the suit, the attorney representing the student and his mother said N.M. qualifies and said the school “failed to follow federal Title IX guidelines, meaning that the mother and son have the right to sue the school for damages on a private level.” He added that the suit is claiming “general negligence, gross negligence, breach of legal duty, injury caused by that breach, and negligent hiring, training, and supervision practices on the part of MMA officials.” Additionally, the suit is seeking $300 million in damages.