Personally, I was shocked when the Steubenville rapists were found guilty. I've gotten cynical about prosecution of rape—so few cases lead to punishment that I was excited and surprised to learn that, this time, the legal system worked.
But yesterday another aspect of creating justice in the case fell short: The football team's coach, Reno Saccoccia, has been rehired for another two years at Steubenville High. Though the rapists were punished, the man who presided over a culture of harassment will still be a leader at the school. Typical! While the courts were serious about Steubenville's rape, it seems the school district is not.
An online petition calling on the school district to fire the coach gained over 135,000 signatures earlier this year, noting that Reno Saccoccia presided over a team that clearly had a culture of harassment. He also threatened a reporter covering the case, telling them, "You're going to get yours."
As for hard evidence on the coach's involvement in the lack of school action following the assault, during the trial, text messages from the defendant's phone indicate that Saccoccia may have known about the assault and done nothing.
"I got Reno," read one text. "He took care of it and sh-- ain't gonna happen, even if they did take it to court." Another text say Reno joked with the defendant about the assault.
Numerous other cases point to how important adults in schools are to cases of sexual assault and harassment among students. These aren't boys acting in a void, they're part of a culture that allows and encourages violence. Just this month, for example, the National Women's Law Center filed suit against Michigan's Forest Hills Central High after the school's principal discouraged a sexual assault victim from pressing charges against her attacker—it could hurt his chances of landing on a good basketball team in college.
If Steubenville really wants to change its image as a community, it needs to start by holding accountable people who allow rape culture to exist.