Cover Stories

Attacked on Campus

A former Santa Fe High student’s alleged attacker had a history of violence. Why didn’t the school district protect her?

(Anson Stevens-Bollen)

Editor’s note: The following story contains references to sexual assault. The pseudonym “Hannah” appears in this story to shield the identity of the victim and her family.

After spending her sophomore year as a newcomer to Santa Fe High School online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hannah looked forward to making new friends when in-person learning resumed in the fall of 2021.

“I was so excited, because I loved being around other people,” Hannah tells SFR.

That year, she enrolled in three Advanced Placement classes and chose Speech and Debate as an extracurricular activity, taking a speech class first thing in the morning and engaging in after-school debate club meets.

Thirty-eight days later Hannah left the school unconscious in an ambulance after a classmate drugged and raped her—allegations detailed in a lawsuit filed last month in First Judicial District Court.

The lawsuit details Hannah’s ordeal, as well as institutional weaknesses that allowed attacks to happen on the campus—and a laundry list of other ones from the last six years.

Hannah never returned to in-person high school classes again; her accused attacker was out of lockup after just nine months.

She says the student who assaulted her, Badr el-Badri, had been verbally and physically harassing her since the beginning of the school year. While a few of her friends and a teacher who witnessed the boy’s behavior asked if she needed help, Hannah thought she had handled the situation.

“It’s a sad reality that young women have to deal with. It’s pervasive, it’s happening all over the place, and everyone’s really desensitized to it,” her mother tells SFR. “Looking back, we can say there were all these red flags and warning signs, and I’m sure that teachers and students feel the same way.”

Those “red flags and warning signs” were ignored, according to the lawsuit brought by Hannah and her parents, which alleges school administrators and security officials’ negligence led to her attack.

“Not only did something tragic happen to a student at Santa Fe High School, but also, this is an impact case to highlight problems with school safety and, hopefully, improve it,” says Kate Ferlic, one of the family’s lawyers.

Kate Ferlic is one of the attorneys representing the family suing SFPS. Ferlic has represented a number of sexual assault victims against corporations and government entities over the past decade. (Courtesy Kate Ferlic)

Though the court has sealed documents from the criminal case under the state Children’s Code’s confidentiality rules because El-Badri was 17 years old, a minor, at the time of his arrest, a police report and the lawsuit from Ferlic and Ben Osborn of Egolf + Ferlic +Martinez + Harwood, LLC provide details about the incident that occurred during the Sept. 13, 2021, school day. The lawsuit names not only the district, the school board and the alleged attacker as defendants, but also then-SFHS Principal Carl Marano, Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez and contract security firm Allied Universal.

SFPS tells SFR the district and its employees named in the lawsuit won’t comment on ongoing litigation. Marano is no longer principal of SFHS, but has since been promoted to assistant superintendent for K-8 instructional support. Allied Universal did not respond to repeated messages seeking comment.

Hannah’s lawsuit alleges the district’s administrators were aware el-Badri had a previous record of violence both on and off-campus. At the time of the assault, the court document claims, he was on probation for a violent crime and wore an ankle monitor by order of a juvenile court. Nonetheless, the complaint says, administrators elected to treat el-Badri “just like any other student, subject to no monitoring or restrictions.”

Additionally, Marano “declined to require teachers to conduct roll calls at the beginning of each period,” throughout September 2021, meaning the school had “no procedures in place to identify whether and when a student had been abducted,” the complaint alleges.

On the day of Hannah’s attack, el-Badri had returned to school after being suspended for threatening a teacher earlier in the month, and around lunchtime, Hannah says he pressured her into taking what toxicology reports later indicated was the tranquilizer Flualprazolam, which he told her was a Xanax.

While she admits she was nervous about taking the pill and normally would not have done so, Hannah says at the time she felt nothing could escalate further while she was on school grounds.

“I was like, ‘There’s security here all the time, they crack down on everybody, we have security cameras,’” Hannah explains in an interview. “I thought I was going to be good, like there’s no way anything more severe could happen.”

After Hannah became visibly disoriented from taking the drug, the lawsuit says, el-Badri paid another student $20 to use his car to sexually assault her over the next several hours in the student parking lot. She was “unable to, and did not and could not give consent to such acts,” the court document states. She ended up partly clothed and unconscious in a nearby portable toilet.

“I honestly never thought I would go to school one day and my day would end with me being dragged out of a porta-potty,” Hannah says. “I didn’t think I’d come to school on Monday and my whole life would change.”

When Hannah didn’t appear to be picked up after school around 4 pm as planned, her mother waited for half an hour and then called the police. A person visiting the campus discovered Hannah and someone called for an ambulance at 5:15 pm.

Hannah’s mother says that’s when a school staff member called to say her daughter was on the way to the hospital. Near 6 pm that day, both a school staff member and el-Badri’s father called the police to report his son was under the influence of a substance and out of control at the school, according to 911 dispatch logs.

After she learned Hannah was en route to the hospital, her mother called Hannah’s father, who drove straight to the hospital from his Colorado home. The next morning, Hannah awoke to see her father’s car parked outside her house. Although her memory of the day before took a while to return, she says that’s the moment she knew something was wrong.

“When I woke up, I was severely confused,” Hannah says. “I went downstairs, and my dad just runs up to me and hugs me, and I started crying, because I thought, ‘This must be a very serious situation,’ and I started realizing what happened yesterday.”

Her mother met with Marano and other school officials the day after the attack.

“They were pretty impersonal about it and defensive, because I think they realized this was a touchy situation,” her mother says. “I think they were all just shocked, and probably had legal direction at that point.”

The lawsuit alleges the incident occurred because the school district lacks a policy protecting students from other students who are “known to be dangerous,” as el-Badri was neither monitored nor kept separate from the rest of the student body despite pending criminal charges from an off-campus incident.

“Santa Fe Public Schools has a continuing duty to keep students safe when at school, and it’s not just their moral obligation,” Ferlic tells SFR. “The law requires the school to ensure that students are safe on campus and have an equal opportunity for an education.”

SFR reviewed police reports from SFHS between Sept. 13, 2016 and Sept. 13, 2022, provided to Ferlic via the state Inspection of Public Records Act. The documents record more than 50 reports from the campus, including at least 20 assault/battery cases. The records also confirm police investigated a sexual assault on campus in February 2022. In 2020, a jury awarded damages to a different Santa Fe High School principal after she spoke up about allegations of student sexual misconduct among student athletes in 2017.

Santa Fe High School’s student parking lot is one of the areas of the school that the lawsuit alleges was lacking in security at the time of the assault. (Mo Charnot)

Despite these reports, the district policy doesn’t call for segregating students accused of crimes, even violent ones. SFPS Policy 325, “Students Charged With Serious Crimes,” states students who are released awaiting trial or sentencing “may remain able to continue attending school.”

While the policy acknowledges students charged with serious crimes can “create apprehension, fear, or diversion on the part of other students or district staff,” it does not set specific limits on when a student charged or convicted of a violent crime would not be able to attend school freely. The board last updated the policy Aug. 7, 2012.

Both Hannah’s family and her attorneys say they hope the litigation causes the school district to strengthen security measures through its hiring practices and attendance-taking, as well as create a stronger alert system to notify parents of incidents occurring at the schools.

The suit against SFPS marks Ferlic’s latest attempt to address institutional weakness while fighting for victims. She advocated for a teenage sexual assault victim in a 2018 lawsuit against CYFD and Familyworks, as well as a patient at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in 2019 and a group of athletes at Eastern New Mexico University, to name a few.

“We did reach out to the school in advance of filing to determine whether they wanted to resolve the case and improve safety standards, and they declined,” she says. “Litigation really becomes a tool for change at a local level and a national level.”

Santa Fe Public Schools has already made some changes that appear to address the gaps in security outlined in the lawsuit, including reduced spending on private security. The lawsuit alleges guards on contract at Santa Fe High through Allied Universal Security Services would “routinely miss patrols and check-ins” and were “notoriously derelict in their duties.”

The Board of Education signed a contract with Allied for the 2021-22 school year, in which it agreed to pay $1.04 million for services at 11 sites, including Santa Fe and Capital high schools. This year, however, SFPS Executive Director of Safety and Security Mario Salbidrez says he pushed for safety aides at the schools to be hired in-house instead. For the 2023-24 school year, the district contracted for just $170,000 with the company.

A safety aide at Santa Fe High School checks a car’s plates and verifies the visitor’s business at the school. The public schools have recently begun hiring safety aides in-house instead of through contracted companies. (Mo Charnot)

“We were looking for a more complete package of an employee that can assist our staff and students,” Salbidrez, a former city police deputy chief, tells SFR. “When you have a contract company, they’re limited to how much information or outreach they can help with when it comes to students, because they’re not district employees. They don’t have all the benefits and abilities to meet everybody and get to know them.”

Plus, he says, in-house guards receive more training, including CPR training, handling special-needs students and student interpersonal conflict.

Salbidrez says the district had been moving toward the change as early as 2019, but “then, this great thing happened to us—COVID. So, we had to hit the brakes on everything…for the next two years, basically that whole program idea got put on hold.”

Coming out of the pandemic, Allied Universal had trouble finding staff, and the district “gave them every opportunity to get up to staffing levels,” according to Salbidrez. Eventually, he approached the superintendent to suggest the district offer better pay incentives to establish new staff positions, reducing Allied Universal’s role in school security in the 2022-23 school year.

Since then, 24 out of the 25 safety aide positions the district opened for hire have been filled, and 12 of its 28 schools have in-house safety aides. The district’s remaining contract with Allied Universal covers limited after-school patrols.

Salbidrez says Santa Fe High School has high security needs because of its size (127 acres), layout and student population (about 1,600). The district uses fencing, safety aides stationed at the parking lot and upwards of 200 cameras on the school grounds, with plans for more.

“This is the hardest school I have, because this is a college campus—it is so porous. Kids have to walk from one building to another, to another throughout the whole day,” he says.

After students returned to classes in-person in 2021, Salbidrez says student conflict increased across the schools, but has since “settled down.” He notes that the district’s policy calls for staff to intervene when a student is in danger.

“We have that moral obligation not just to the student, but to the parents as well, that they go home the same way they came,” Salbidrez says.

Despite whatever improvements the district has implemented, the events of 2021 still greatly impacted Hannah’s access to education.

“I sat up in my room for a month, watched Grey’s Anatomy and contemplated what I was going to do with my life,” she says.

During the first month she was out of school, Hannah’s mother says the school administration did not inform Hannah’s teachers about her situation, which led to consequences about her absence and late assignments.


By October, Hannah had transferred to Desert Sage Academy, SFPS’ online K-12 school, where she says she received more support from teachers and administrators.

“Emotionally, online was all that we could manage, which is just not what she ever envisioned or ever wanted for herself,” Hannah’s mother says.

Keeping up with schoolwork while recovering was already a struggle, but the trial process only made things more difficult for Hannah and her family. As part of an agreement where he admitted to a lesser charge, they say el-Badri was committed to the custody of the state Children, Youth and Families Department for one year. SFR called el-Badri’s father, who said the family declined to comment.

For Hannah, the outcome was frustrating, especially considering the amount of time it took for the case to make its way through the system—longer than her attacker’s actual sentence. She says, “He got sentenced to a 365-day commitment. I suffered for 400 days, and he didn’t get barely anything.”

New Mexico law, however, calls for such a sentence when a juvenile court finds a minor delinquent and imposes a one-year commitment: The minor may spend no more than nine months in a facility and no less than 90 days on supervised release.

Hannah and her family only learned el-Badri would be released when they traveled to Albuquerque to appeal that he serve his full sentence.

“After crying and saying everything we did, they looked me and my mom in the eye and said… ‘He’s getting out on Aug. 12,” Hannah says. “I was very upset, because they could have told us this on the phone.”

Corey Adams, CYFD’s deputy director for Juvenile Justice Field Services, tells SFR that generally speaking, sentencing recommendations for juvenile offenders can be “somewhat limited at times,” though he would not comment on the specific case.

Adams says when a juvenile court transfers legal custody of a minor to CYFD, commitments can be “for one year, two years, or until the age of 21 based on the severity of the charges and how the district attorney decided to pursue the case.”

He says the state’s focus on reform for delinquent youth explains part of the reason juvenile offenders rarely receive sentences longer than a few years. Adams adds that CYFD uses trauma-informed care for youth committed to its detention facilities to help positively impact their future behaviors.

“Personally, my approach to dealing with juvenile delinquency cases is to try and enforce accountability for their actions while also providing support and assistance in addressing the factors that led to the behaviors,” Adams says.

However, the lighter sentences made Hannah’s family feel unheard.

“There’s more support for the criminal than the victim,” Hannah’s mother says. “They put all these efforts into the criminal, and try to get him through the program…and here, she’s barely hanging on.”

Hannah and her mother have been taking the time to heal emotionally since the 2021 assault through therapy with Solace Sexual Assault Services, and hope the lawsuit will lead to improvements in school security and student wellness. (Mo Charnot / Photo Illustration by Anson Stevens-Bollen)

Hannah earned a diploma from Desert Sage this past May, an accomplishment to which she credits teachers who gave her leeway with assignments and allowed her to take days off.

“Desert Sage Academy saved me, because I was ready to not be in school anymore,” Hannah says. “They really worked with me on everything.”

Now, she’s enrolled in Vogue College of Cosmetology’s four-month esthetics program, where she says she feels more comfortable attending because it’s a majority-female school.

“I can’t go back to normal schools; there’s a reason why I’m not in college,” Hannah says. “The reason I didn’t even apply for college is, I cannot sit next to another person that is a male, that starts talking to me, and be fine.”

Hannah continues therapy with Solace Sexual Assault Services to work on handling her triggers, which she says took her a while to learn to recognize and manage. When she first sought out the agency’s services, she had difficulty opening up.

“I was very quiet, still. It hadn’t really hit me yet, what had happened to me,” Hannah says. “I would sit there for an hour and barely say anything. It’s hard to come to terms with it. It seems easier to just shut down than actually talk about it, because you don’t want to believe it happened to you.”

At Solace Sexual Assault Services, the staff relies on the “expertise of survivors” to treat their patients, says Executive Director María José Rodríguez Cádiz. Solace provides crisis stabilization and long-term therapy through a team of professionals who specialize in sexual violence-related trauma. All services of the program are free to survivors.

“When it comes to long-term therapy, it can last as long as the survivor needs it,” Cádiz tells SFR.

Hannah says Solace’s therapy was vital to her recovery.

“I probably wouldn’t still be here if they wouldn’t have helped me actually be able to say, ‘Yes, I was raped. Yes, I can get through it.’ It took me a long time,” Hannah says.

Despite her progress, it’s still hard for both Hannah and her mother to even drive by Santa Fe High School.

“If I had a kid, I wouldn’t let her go to that school in particular, especially if I knew how they ended up handling the situation, and really show no remorse for the victim or anything,” Hannah says. “There would be no question.”

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at]sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.