The Elk-Point-Jefferson School District is facing a federal lawsuit from a former student who says a misunderstanding left her humiliated and led to administrators violating her federal rights.
Attorneys on behalf of 18-year-old Addison Ludwig filed that lawsuit in US District Court on Thursday. The suit claims that the district, Principal Travis Aslesen and former Superintendent Sheri Hardman violated Ludwig’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and violated Title IX while reprimanding her for statements she made to a local newspaper.
According to court documents, on September 7th of 2017 Ludwig was featured in the Senior Spotlights section of both the school newspaper and the Leader-Courier. In the section under hobbies, Ludwig listed “Netflix n’ Chill with my boyfriend, hangout with friends, volleyball & Going out with family and friends to the river.”
The lawsuit alleges that on September 13th Aslesen called Ludwig alone into his office for a closed door meeting. During that meeting the lawsuit says that Aslesen asked Ludwig if she knew what the phrase “Netflix and Chill” meant and Ludwig responded that she believed it meant “to sit and chill and watch Netflix.”
Documents say that Aslesen continued to interrogate Ludwig and at one point demanded that she take out her school-issued laptop and look up the meaning of the phrase on Urban Dictionary. The lawsuit says that Aslesen then began threatening her with various punishments including removal of several privileges and suspension from the volleyball team. According to the filings, the conversation humiliated Ludwig and she began crying due to the “intimidating, coercive, and sexually provocative content discussed by Aslesen.”
Alsesen ultimately decided to revoke Ludwig’s senior privileges, removed her as editor of the school newspaper and moved her to a new homeroom. As part of his punishment, the lawsuit says Aslesen also demanded that Ludwig prepare a retraction including an apology that he would print in both the school and local newspaper.
Court documents say that Aslesen later contacted the Leader-Courier and shared federally protected information with the editor and said that Ludwig was “that kind of girl.”
According to the lawsuit a male student listed “Netflix and Chill” as a hobby in the January 26th edition of the school newspaper and received no repercussions. It also claims that a different male student wore a shirt with the phrase and was not punished.
The lawsuit seeks both monetary and punitive damages. It also seeks a declaration mandating a change is district policy about how it handles sexual harassment misconduct.
The school district has not yet responded to the lawsuit.