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Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Claim Alleges Sexual Assault and Abuse in California School
ALHAMBRA - A Ramona Elementary School parent says the Alhambra Unified School District failed to prevent her special needs 6-year-old from being "sexually assaulted" by other students during school hours.The girl, who is a student in the school's Special Day Class, was allegedly forced by other students to perform sexual acts in the bathroom during lunch and recess, according to a claim filed against the district July 2.
The claim requests payment for "mental, emotional and physical damages" and expenses of more than $1 million, alleging that district staff and administrators should have taken action to stop the alleged activities.
"(The child) suffered repeated and traumatic sexual assaults," according to the claim. "These assaults caused her painful physical, emotional and psychological injuries."
Alhambra Unified School District board members rejected the claim at its July 17 meeting.
Board President Patricia Rodriguez-Mackintosh and Board Member Adele Andrade-Stadler did not return calls for comment. Board Member Bob Gin declined to comment.
AUSD Interim Superintendent Donna Perez declined to comment on the allegations. The district released a copy of the claim, but redacted all names, including adult teachers, staff and administrators.
Frank Perez, an attorney who represents the child's family, did not respond to calls for comment.
Alhambra police Capt. Elliot Kase said a police report was filed
on April 30 on the issue. It was referred to the investigations department. He said he did not know the status of the investigation and could not reveal any details in the report."When you're dealing with juveniles it is highly sensitive," Kase said.
The claim alleges that teachers and administrators knew about the alleged incidents, as the young girl's behavior chart allegedly indicated that she had been "touching, hugging, kissing and caressing" other students during class.
But, the claim said, teachers took "no steps to investigate" this conduct.
"Any qualified educator in the field of special needs would have instantly been aware that this conduct was at very least cause for concern and that it warranted further investigation. However, despite these obvious red flags ... employees, teachers and staff did nothing," the claim states.
The claim alleges that teachers and staff were legally obligated to report this behavior under California's Mandated Reporter law for child abuse and neglect.
The six-year-old reportedly told her parents on April 30 about the alleged incidents, but the girl's mother had reportedly become suspicious after her daughter began asking to stay home from school months earlier.
The claim also says that earlier this year the girl was diagnosed with a skin infection, after complaining of vaginal pain. The claim alleges that this infection was a result of the alleged "sexual assaults" at school.
The girl's mother said another Special Day Class parent told her that her son had also been "a victim" of what she called "the married game," in which students forced others to "perform sexual acts" in the bathroom, the claim says.
The other mother allegedly reported the incident to school staff in March but said "the school had done nothing."
According to the claim, "no teacher aide, principal or other supervisory staff ever stepped foot in the bathroom to check
on the children's safety."Dorian Traube, University of Southern California assistant professor of social work, said that "if this was actually occurring" she was surprised that teachers did not become suspicious that students were "in the bathroom for long periods of time."
"I would question why these children would be in situations without supervision for extended periods of time," Traube said.
She said it is "atypical" for young children to engage in acts that are "sexually aggressive."
"Almost exclusively when young children display sexual behavior, it is because they have been victimized themselves," Traube said.
She added that another possible cause for sexual behavior could be that children were "exposed to explicit material ... on a television show or a movie or something like that and they are reacting to that."
However, Traube said she has seen cases like this in other districts dropped because a child's claims are often difficult to prove.
"Particularly the younger the child and the less articulate the child is, the harder it is to substantiate a case like this," Traube said. "That even happens when children are victimized by adults.