A controversy erupted over the weekend after school administrators allowed a Fishers High School student to compete in a swim meet despite his earlier suspension over “substantiated cases of harassment.”
The student, one of the top high school swimmers in the state competed in sectionals at Hamilton Southeastern High School on Saturday while a group of about 25 people stood silently outside in protest.
Here is a breakdown of what we know about the situation and what still remains unclear.
IndyStar was unable to reach the parents of the male student on Friday. IndyStar is not naming him because he has not been charged with a crime.
What we know
1. The swimmer was suspended from the team earlier this school year over harassment allegations.
IndyStar obtained documents from multiple parents whose daughters were involved in the school’s investigation the matter. The documents said the male student would not be allowed to swim with the team “due to substantiated cases of harassment” and “fear exhibited by female swimmers” making the pool a “hostile environment.”
The allegations centered around text messages, according to the documents. One document said a female student “received sexually explicit content … that was unwanted.”
The documents appear to be communications to parents from Erica Buchanan-Rivera, the district’s chief equity and inclusion officer and Title IX coordinator. The documents appear to written on Hamilton Southeastern Schools letterhead.
IndyStar is not in possession of the school’s Title IX investigation report itself.
The Fishers Police Department said Friday it has an open harassment case against the student, but a detective has not been assigned to the case and there is no active investigation. Officer Tom Weger said a report on the matter is not publicly available, though, because the case remains open.
2. The school’s investigation involved 12 female students.
The documents indicate that 12 female students were interviewed during the school’s investigation but the male student only had “direct contact” with three.
3. The school district made an appeal to let the boy swim.
Indiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Bobby Cox told IndyStar that school district administrators appealed to allow the male student back on the team. The student’s suspension caused him to not meet the minimum required amount of participation to enter a tournament, so the school reached out to IHSAA to make a verbal appeal.
“Once the girls season was coming to a close, they decided to lift the suspension and asked us to waive the (participation) rule,” Cox said.
The girls swim season ended Feb. 9.
What we still don’t know
1. The details of the harassment allegations.
Although the documents IndyStar obtained reference text messages and “sexually explicit content,” the specific content of the messages was not made clear. It also is unclear how many messages girls received and over what time period.
IndyStar has made a written request to the school district under open records laws for a copy of its Title IX investigation report into the matter.
2. The extent of any disciplinary action the male student received.
Documents indicate that the student was suspended from the swim team, but whether he faced or will face any additional disciplinary action remains unclear.
3. The district’s reasoning for making the appeal to allow him to compete again.
The district petitioned the athletic association to allow the male student to return to competition. The district pointed to the fact that the girls season had concluded, so the boys and girls would not be swimming at the same time, according to an email from administrators that IndyStar obtained from a parent whose daughter was involved in the school’s investigation.
But why the district advocated for the male student’s return remains unclear.
HSE on Friday released a statement saying federal law prohibits the district from releasing “any information about any of the involved parties.”
“Our process for responding to reports of harassment includes a thorough investigation and on-going support for the well-being of all involved,” the statement said. “This includes continued monitoring and taking into account any changing dynamics. We believe we have proceeded with this situation in the same manner.”
IndyStar reporters Andrew Clark, Kyle Neddenriep and David Woods contributed to this report.