‘He Never Denied It’: Quartz Hill High School Student Says School Failed to Address Her Sexual Assault
Isabelle De La Torre reported her assault immediately, but Quartz Hill High School was slow to respond. The school’s sex-ed curriculum is not up to date, and conversations about consent are lacking.
On Friday, February 3, 2023, Isabelle De La Torre, a junior at Quartz Hill High School (QHHS), was in her fifth period class, where she served as a teacher’s aide for culinary chemistry. The classroom is a former teacher’s lounge complete with a backroom with furniture and a full kitchen.
That day, one of De La Torre’s classmates, a varsity soccer player for Quartz Hill, stopped by to make food. This was something the student had done before, although he and De La Torre had never interacted previously.
“He never really said anything to me [until that day], but he would walk through,” De La Torre said. “He would come in to make food sometimes and then would proceed to leave through the kitchen.”
However, that Friday, the student approached De La Torre while she was watching television.
“He walks in and he asks what I was watching,” De La Torre said. “I said Dance Moms. He was trying to make small talk but I wasn’t interested, so I was being super dry with my responses.”
The student ignored De La Torre’s disinterest and invited her to come into the kitchen to make lunch. While she declined several times, he kept asking until she relented.
“I thought ‘maybe if I go make food with him he’ll leave me alone,’” she said.
When the two entered the kitchen, there was nothing in the fridge, so De La Torre and the student returned to the lounge where they sat down on the couch together.
“It was like a loveseat with a center console in the middle,” she said. “He sits on the right side, I’m sitting on the left side. He slowly gets up and sits on the center console. He keeps talking to me and asking me what I’m doing. I try to ignore him because I don’t care. I didn’t want to talk to him.”
The altercation then became physical.
“He gets up, stands over me, and then he kisses me or tries to kiss me three times,” De La Torre said. “I did not kiss him back. In-between each kiss, I pushed him off and asked him what he was doing.”
Despite De La Torre’s rebukes, the student continued his advances.
“He unzipped my shirt and grabbed my breast multiple times and was squeezing them,” De La Torre said. “I was so in shock that I said nothing. I was scared because he’s about six-foot-three and I’m five-six. I didn’t think I could overpower him in any way. And I didn’t want to scream or anything because there was a class going on and I was scared.”
The student eventually relented, after assaulting La Torre several times.
“I looked at him with a face full of disgust. I wanted him to stop but I couldn’t find the words to say, ‘Get off of me. Stop,’” she said. “Then after that, he got up and got his stuff and said, ‘I can tell you don’t want this, so I’m going to go.’”
De La Torre went to security immediately after class to report the incident. With the help of her mother, Amy Campos, the two filed a formal Title IX complaint. Campos felt taking the federal route gave more specific, serious consequences than leaving things to the discretion of the school.
What is Title IX?
Title IX of the Education of Amendments to 1972 is a federal civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and extracurricular activities. All public and private schools must comply with Title IX and have a Title IX coordinator.
It took 63 days for the Title IX complaint to process, during which time Quartz Hill High School took little action on their own end to address the incident.
According to De La Torre, the student corroborated her story when confronted by investigators. Knock LA was not independently able to confirm that.
“He never denied it,” De La Torre said. “He has never denied it at any point.”
School administrators did inform teachers that students were no longer allowed in the backroom because of an incident between two TAs, but De La Torre herself was not offered any additional resources. Only one teacher knew De La Torre had been assaulted, and only because she informed him after he asked her whether the assault involved her.
The student who assaulted De La Torre was a varsity player for Quartz Hill High School’s soccer team. The assault occurred at the height of the 2022-2023 soccer season. Despite the ongoing Title IX investigation, he continued playing, which was emotionally difficult for De La Torre.
“He was the star of the varsity soccer season and I wanted him off the team,” De La Torre said. “It was during an investigation, so they couldn’t get him off the team. He continued to play, he continued to be in all the pep rallies, he continued to be posted all across social media, so I continued to see his face everywhere all the time.”
Knock LA asked De La Torre what she wants in terms of justice.
“I want him to be held accountable,” De La Torre said. “I want people to know what he did. I really just wanted him gone. I never wanted to see him again. I wanted to completely forget about him.”
Quartz Hill High School’s Lack of Sex Ed
In January 2016, the California Healthy Young Act went into effect. It requires schools to provide more comprehensive and unbiased information about topics such as sexual health and HIV prevention. On May 8, 2019, the State Board of Education adopted a new Health Education Framework and provided schools with an optional guidance document to ensure teachers and administrators know how to teach California’s 2008 Health Education Content Standards.
According to Campos and De La Torre, QHHS lags behind in terms of health education, particularly sex ed. Campos provided Knock LA with a photo from the school’s current health education class textbook that shows it was published in 2004.
The Quartz Hill High School Course Description Book lists this class as “AVID Health Survey/Healthful Living.” A required elective, the course is described as “a health class based on the philosophy that prevention and making healthy lifestyle choices is important to lifelong wellness.” De La Torre, who took the class as a freshmen, says there was little focus on sexual health during the course.
“All they talked about from what I remember and from what my sister has told me is drugs, peer pressure, and STDs. Nothing about consent, rape, anything like that,” De La Torre said. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything from the school. Like from curriculum textbooks, teachers, anything about sexual assault at all. Consent. Anything, to be honest.”
The QHHS coursebook says the class covers topics including “teenage issues such as conflict, violence, bullying, relationships and peer pressure” as well as “nutrition, eating disorders, substance use and abuse, diseases and the reproductive system.” While the class is two semesters long, students are permitted to instead take an accelerated version over the summer in order to make room for extra electives during the school year. This version condenses each semester into two hours of course work, culminating in four hours total spent on health education.
“You read a paragraph, you answer a couple of questions, you take a test, and then you’re onto the next chapter. So that way you can finish it,” De La Torre said.
Knock LA spoke to Ryan Spooner, the prevention director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), about best practices for teaching young adults about consent. Spooner emphasized the importance of having longer conversations that build trust before launching into heavier, more complex topics. CAASE provides a series of one-hour courses spread out over the course of five weeks.
“Part of its rapport building,” he said. “Students love talking about all the ways they feel. Like, ‘This is an annoying thing that is expected of me by my parents.’ Or, ‘This is a thing I saw in this movie that’s considered normal, but that’s not who I am.’ It’s talking, but what that also does is it helps us have a conversation about the fact that we are taught our entire lives a bunch of really harmful attitudes about sex.”
Part of Spooner’s job as prevention director entails unpacking harmful ideas about sex and sexuality — especially when it comes to traditional gender roles.
“So much of it is about decoupling masculinity and sex,” Spooner said, “like the idea of being a man is being this virile sexual person. I think that it’s always good to engage boys and young men just to help teach them and show them it doesn’t have to be this way. This isn’t the person you have to be.”
Spooner is an advocate of thinking of sexual harm as a “public health concern” that should be responded to “the way we would with any issue of public health,” emphasizing the need for communities to “support and model healthy behaviors.”
“This crash course does not sound ideal to me,” Spooner said, referring to QHHS’s Avid Health Survey. “I think one of the greatest benefits of workshops and classes or lessons with students all together in a room participating is that it really puts in perspective just how much people tend to overestimate or maybe just get wrong what their peers think.”
An Ongoing Legal Battle
Knock LA reviewed documentation confirming the student who assaulted De La Torre was eventually found responsible in a Title IX investigation. However, according to Campos and De La Torre, an appeals process began almost immediately. The district determined that part of the Written Determination of Responsibility was missing, one of the main points the student raised during his appeal.
What is the Written Determination of Responsibility?
The Written Determination must be completed by the Title IX decision-maker, effectively the judge of Title IX cases. The Written Determination includes a number of details about the incident, the procedural steps taken surrounding the incident, facts and evidence supporting the incident, and determinations regarding responsibility and disciplinary sanctions.
According to Campos, this news “further pushes out timelines in terms of final determination.” While the student remains banned from district property and will not be allowed to walk in 2023 graduation as the appeals process continues, Campos and De La Torre remain frustrated by a lack of accountability.
“[Not walking at graduation] is likely his only consequence,” Campos said. “It’s frustrating. The school and the district failed her in keeping her safe when this happened in February and they failed her again.”