Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Vermont school district settles suit claiming it mishandled bullying after rape allegation

Skylar White, 18, of Chester, says she was raped by Ryan Stocker, a fellow student at Green Mountain Union High School. Stocker was arrested last week and charged with two counts of sexual assault.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
Vermont Public File
Skylar White and her four sisters filed suit in federal court in 2019. In a 69-page complaint, they detailed the events that followed after White told school personnel at Green Mountain Union High that she had been sexually assaulted at an off-campus party in the spring of 2017.

A southern Vermont school district has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that administrators failed to protect five sisters from bullying after one of them accused a classmate of rape.

Skylar White and her four sisters first filed suit in federal court in 2019. In a 69-page complaint, they detailed the events that followed after White told school personnel at Green Mountain Union High that Ryan Stocker had sexually assaulted her at an off-campus party in the spring of 2017.

When White told administrators she didn’t want to be in the same class as her assailant, the lawsuit claimed school officials made her do her work in the library, instead of changing his schedule.

Stocker left school after being criminally charged later in 2017, and White graduated. But even with both of them gone from the high school, White’s sisters faced escalating harassment from their peers, according to the lawsuit. Stocker’s friends would follow the sisters around in the halls, and sometimes call him on their phones. One student even allegedly tried to run them over in the parking lot.

Vermont Public does not typically name survivors of sexual assault, but White has spoken openly with the media about her case.

Multiple victims ultimately came forward to accuse Stocker of rape. He pled guilty in October to sexual assault and unlawful restraint, according to court records, and awaits sentencing.

The school district admitted no wrongdoing as part of the deal, which was finalized in late January. But Karen Hewes, a New Hampshire attorney who represented the White family, said the settlement amount nevertheless “sends a message.”

“You can't continue to sweep these claims under the rug, you have to take action and you have to do better,” she said.

More from Vermont Public: 'We need to take our bodies back': Chester teen speaks out about rape

According to Hewes, the thing that still haunts Skylar isn’t the assault itself — it’s the “institutional betrayal” she experienced after coming forward. Three of Skylar’s sisters transferred to another school instead of graduating from Green Mountain, according to Hewes, and the entire family has since left Vermont.

“Home is Vermont, but they feel exiled from Vermont,” Hewes said. “They feel that their whole community turned against them.”

Most of the charges filed in the lawsuit fell under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that protects people from sex-based discrimination in federally funded educational institutions. But Hewes noted that a conservative Supreme Court has chipped away at the law in recent years.

“Nationwide, we have Title IX being gutted. We have Roe v. Wade being overturned,” she said. “So I think the prospect for women's rights in our country are worse than they were in 2019.”

In addition to the district, the Two Rivers Supervisory Union and the school board, the lawsuit named as defendants then-Superintendent Meg Powden, former Principal Thomas Ferenc, then-Associate Principal Michael Ripley and Director of Guidance Pamela O’Neil.

Lauren Fierman, the current superintendent of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union, did not respond to a request for comment.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Lola is Vermont Public's education and youth reporter, covering schools, child care, the child protection system and anything that matters to kids and families. She's previously reported in Vermont, New Hampshire, Florida (where she grew up) and Canada (where she went to college).
Latest Stories