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.
……………………………Vern Minor, Superintendent, Republic School District
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.
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 forgo her own needs and wishes to satisfy the request of others around so she can be accepted.’”
The 23-page suit was filed July 5 and 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” said 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 girl failed and neglected to use reasonable means to protect her self, the response says. Any damages the girl may have sustained, “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.