Idaho Student Files Lawsuit in Sexual Abuse Case

In early October 2020, a former student of Fruitland High School in Fruitland, Idaho, has sued the Fruitland School District as well as her former assistant track coach Kelly Rhinehart.

According to KTVB7, the lawsuit alleges that Rhinehart sexually abused the student on multiple occasions and the school district failed to train staff to recognize the warning signs, allowing his “conspicuous predatory behavior to go unchecked.”

The student claims Rhinehart’s predatory behavior began in the spring of 2018 when she was 16 years old. She states that Rhinehart attempted to gain her trust after she went through a family tragedy. “Jennifer Doe,” as she is referred to in court documents, says that her former coach attended her basketball and soccer games and promised to help her get a job and get into college.

By the fall, the coach was allegedly allowed to be alone with Doe on school grounds and began advances on the student. He convinced her to join his track team and publicly flirted with her.

He allegedly expressed “sexual feelings” toward Doe in April 2019. Doe states that on April 5, 2019, her coach “flirtatiously touched her leg” around other students and staff, and the following day, he sexually abused her at the school.

The school district is being sued for their failure to act in the case. KTVB7 states that “school and district administrators failed to intervene despite having been warned that Rhinehart had previously had inappropriate relationships in previous volunteer positions or jobs before being hired as a coach at Fruitland High School.”

Rhinehart quit his job in May 2019, and two months later, he was arrested for rape and sexual battery charges. He was indicted on one count of rape and four counts of sexual battery, to which he pled not guilty. Charges were dropped in January 2020, but the Idaho Attorney General’s Office signaled that prosecutors could refile the charges.

Jennifer Doe’s case has been presented to a judge with the request for a jury trial in federal court. A trial date is not yet set.

Lee McFarland

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