Mom of Harassed Corona Del Mar Student Keeps Fighting

A still from the video mentioned in the lawsuit. Watch the full thing here.
A still from the video mentioned in the lawsuit. Watch the full thing here.

We reported back in September that the American Civil Liberties Union had settled a lawsuit against Newport-Mesa School District and Corona del Mar High School administrators brought by the Orange County Equality Coalition and the Ketchum-Wiggins family, whose daughter Hail was harassed via Facebook video and who said administrators didn't do enough to punish the harassers. The lawsuit came in the midst of controversy over a school production of Rent--originally spiked by the school's administration, some allege, because it depicted homosexuality--which featured Hail Ketchum-Wiggins as lead.

It's November now, which means all the high-school seniors involved in the case, including Hail Ketchum-Wiggins and the three boys who "joked" about raping and murdering her, aren't at CDM anymore. But Karyl Ketchum, mother of Hail, is still losing sleep. She tells the Weekly that she believes the school has failed to follow through on a few terms of the settlement agreement, and that she fears for the safety of her daughter when she returns from college for the holidays.

Ketchum is considering her options. One of them involves YouTube.

The 11-page settlement agreement called for the district to issue a statement summarizing what went wrong with the handling of the harassment, and what "corrective action" was being taken in response. In Ketchum's mind, that meant the administrators who, she says, coddled the harassers would be punished--and the family would finally get an explanation for why the school thought it was alright to assign the school's part-time football coach to investigate the harassers, all of whom played football.

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Ketchum says she was disappointed by the statement the school eventually sent her. While she's not allowed to release it to the press, she says its only substantive sentence is this: "It is the District's finding and disposition of this complaint that unfortunate events prevented the processing of these issues consistent with the provisions of the District's complaint procedures." She thinks Superintendent Jeffrey Hubbard and CDM Assistant Principal Duncan McCulloch should face consequences; more than that, she would like to see the three boys in the video prosecuted as criminals. So, she says, she's talking with the OC District Attorney's office and trying to get the attention of the U.S. Attorney General's office, too.

"We thought at the end of the settlement, the wheels of justice would start moving," Ketchum says. "[The continued inaction] is so beyond disappointing; it's demoralizing."

While pushing for criminal prosecution, she's worried about the safety of her daughter and others in the community who will be returning from college for the holidays: The boys in the video will be back too. Ketchum says she's toying with the idea of further publicizing the incident by uploading the video--currently viewable on Ketchum's personal website--to YouTube. That way, she says, moms will at least know who to tell their daughters to avoid.

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