TRIGGER WARNING for sexual assault and victim-blaming. ETA: shadwing also reminded me to include the usual "read comments at your own peril" caveat.
Suit filed against Republic School District - District didn't protect girl from sexual assault, suit maintains.
In sum: A 13-year-old girl was being sexually harrassed by a boy at school, who then raped her. When the girl reported the harassment and assault, school officials told her they did not believe her. The girl was then forced to write and hand-deliver an apology to her rapist, was expelled for the rest of the school year, and was referred to authorities for filing a false report. The school also failed to report any of this to Child Services, which they are required to do by law.
The girl was allowed to come back the next school year. The boy resumed harassing her, but she didn't report it out of fear that she would be called a liar again. The boy then raped her A SECOND TIME, this time inside the school library. The girl's mother took her to have a rape kit performed, proving that the boy assaulted her via DNA evidence, and he was taken into custody and plead guilty to unspecified charges. You would think the school would believe her this time. You would be wrong. She was suspended for "disrespectful conduct and public display of affection".
The girl and her mother are filing a lawsuit against the school district for failing to protect her, and the district claims her charges are "frivolous", that they're immune from prosecution, that they're owed compensation for their legal fees thus far, and that she didn't do enough to protect herself so it was her fault that she got raped.
A lawsuit filed against the Republic School District alleges school officials failed to protect a middle school girl from a male classmate who harassed her, sexually assaulted her and raped her.
In its written response, the school district denies all allegations in the suit and calls the claims frivolous.
The suit, filed July 5, alleges when the girl -- a special education student -- told officials about the harassment, assault and rape that occurred during the 2008-09 school year, they told her they did not believe her. She recanted.
The suit also alleges that, without seeking her mother's permission, school officials forced the girl to write a letter of apology to the boy and personally deliver it to him. She was then expelled for the rest of the 2008-2009 school year and referred to juvenile authorities for filing a false report.
"School Officials, although mandatory reporters under Missouri's Child Abuse Reporting Law, failed to report [the girl's] complaints to the Division of Family Services or to Greene County Juvenile Authorities," the suit says.
In 2009-10, the girl was allowed back in school, and the boy continued to harass and assault her, the suit says. She did not tell school officials because she was afraid she would be accused of lying and kicked out of school.
In February 2010, the boy allegedly forcibly raped the girl again, this time in the back of the school library. While school officials allegedly expressed skepticism of the girl, her mother took her to the Child Advocacy Center and an exam showed a sexual assault had occurred. DNA in semen found on the girl matched the DNA of the boy she accused, the suit says.
Despite the finding of the Advocacy Center, the school suspended the girl for disrespectful conduct and public display of affection, the suit says.
The boy was taken into custody in Juvenile Court and pleaded guilty to charges, the suit says. The specific charges are not stated in the suit.
"School Officials acted recklessly in conscious disregard of and with deliberate indifference to the risk of [the girl's] safety by failing to conduct an investigation into her allegations of rape and sexual assault, by suspending her from school, and by failing to provide her with any protection from her rapist," the suit says.
The suit alleges that when school officials interviewed the girl in 2008-09, they failed to even look at her own school file, which included a psychological report "which clearly indicated that [the girl] was conflict adverse, behaviorally passive and 'would forego her own needs and wishes to satisfy the request of others around so she can be accepted.'"
The 23-page suit only identifies the girl, her mother, and the boy by initials.
The girl is represented by attorney Doug Harpool. The suit seeks unspecified actual and punitive damages.
Defendants specifically named in the suit are the Republic School District, Superintendent Vern Minor, middle school Principal Patricia Mithelavage, counselor Joni Ragain and school resource officer Robert Duncan.
The school district's 19-page response was filed July 29.
"Plaintiff's claims against the District are frivolous, and have no basis in fact or law" says the response, written by the school district's lawyers, Celynda Brasher and Michelle Basi. "Therefore, the District Defendants are entitled to an award of their reasonable attorneys' fees and costs."
The defendants acted in good faith with the belief that they were not violating established principles of law of which they were aware or should have been aware, the school district's response says.
Further, the girl's claims are barred because the officials are protected by various forms of immunity, the school district response says. The girl's claims are also barred because she and her mother did not exhaust administrative remedies.
The girl failed and neglected to use reasonable means to protect her self, the response says. Any damages the girl may have suffered, "were as a result of the negligence, carelessness, or conduct of third parties over whom the District Defendants had neither control nor the right to control," according to the school district response.
Greene County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Casey Clark said he learned only Monday night of the allegations in the lawsuit that the Republic School District may have violated mandated reporting laws.
"We requested reports from the Republic police department so that we can review them in light of the allegations that have been made in this lawsuit and see if there has been any wrongdoing," said Clark.
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