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Minnesota Department of Human Rights settles sexual assault lawsuit against Plymouth school

Updated: February 27, 2020 06:07 PM

A judge has ordered a Twin Cities Lutheran school to make significant changes to the way it handles allegations of bullying and harassment.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights sued West Lutheran High School for discrimination and retaliation in 2019, claiming school officials failed to act after a female student had reported she'd been sexually harassed and assaulted by two fellow classmates.

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Miranda Waade, 19, told her story to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in October, after 5 INVESTIGATES obtained records that showed the school's then-principal, Adam Wiechmann, dismissed her story and accused her of making it up.

Doubting Miranda: High school principal accused student of making up sexual harassment claims

The state will have oversight over West Lutheran High School in Plymouth for the next three years as part of a court-ordered consent decree that was approved Thursday.

DHR Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said the comprehensive approach will ensure changes that benefit students.

"I think it sends a really clear message that this should not be tolerated," Lucero said in an interview with 5 INVESTIGATES. "When these things happen, like they do everywhere, students need to make sure they are supported and corrective actions are taken."

The consent decree requires West Lutheran High School to take immediate steps to:

  • Develop, adopt, and publicly distribute written policies, including a social media policy, that address and prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination;
  • Implement a comprehensive protocol for investigating every complaint of harassment, discrimination and retaliation;
  • Require all students, faculty, staff and members of its Board of Regents sign a Code of Conduct Pledge each school year that specifically addresses bullying, harassment and discrimination;
  • Add bullying and harassment as topics to the curriculum for a required class;
  • Train all faculty, staff, students and members of the Board of Regents annually on the school's obligations to create an environment that is free of discrimination, harassment and bullying;
  • Train all staff and officials responsible for conducting investigations with trauma-informed investigation training; and
  • Report to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights the number of complaints made related to bullying, harassment and discrimination, the steps taken to investigate the complaint, the outcomes of the investigation and other information necessary.

"We want to have an impact here," Lucero said. "We want to make sure these policies and procedures are being implemented and that they are having the intended effect."

The consent decree is in effect for three years. If at any time, West Lutheran fails to follow the requirements in the agreement, Minnesota's Department of Human Rights is allowed to seek civil penalties and other relief through the court process, under the terms of the agreement.

West Lutheran's Board of Regents chairman Mark Kaesmeyer, who signed the consent decree on behalf of the school, could not be reached for comment.

Due to a pending civil lawsuit, Miranda Waade and her family declined to comment through their attorney Thursday.

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Kirsten Swanson

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