Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Second Graders Alleging Sexual Abuse in School

MUNCIE INDIANA -- The parents of a Burris Laboratory School student have filed suit against the school, alleging the boy was repeatedly subjected to "horrific sexual abuse" by fellow second-graders at various locations in the school.
The suit, filed Friday in Delaware Circuit Court 1, identifies the alleged victim and his parents only as Junior, John and Jane Doe.
In addition to Burris, the suit also named as defendants a second-grade teacher who taught the alleged victim and three other boys said to be involved in the assaults; Ball State University, which operates Burris as a laboratory school, and the university's board of trustees.
The suit alleges that due to "Burris and Ball State's complete lack of supervision and institutional controls ... (8-year-old Junior Doe) was forced, on multiple occasions, to engage in explicit sex acts with other children and forced to perform oral sex on children his own age."
It claims the "sexual abuse and molestation" took place in a school bathroom, the library and in the boy's second-grade classroom.
The lawsuit also maintains that Burris students had "unfettered access to the school Internet to view pornographic videos and then 'act out' the scenes on each other."
Ball State and local law enforcement officials confirmed Monday that investigations were launched in late 2011 over what Tony Proudfoot, BSU associate vice president for marketing and communications, called "allegations of inappropriate behavior among four elementary students at Burris."
"These concerns were reported promptly by Burris to the Indiana Department of Child Services," Proudfoot said. "Local law enforcement was also involved in reviewing the matter."
However, Proudfoot said the allegations in the lawsuit "bear no resemblance to the evidence or results of the investigations of the university or those of the agencies to which it was reported."
"From this point forward, the university will vigorously defend these unwarranted allegations," Proudfoot said. "Our commitment to the safety of students at Burris and the university are of paramount importance, and we fully expect the evidence to bear this out."
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Judi Calhoun said allegations were "investigated fully by the sheriff's department, and the prosecutor's office was involved."
Because most legal proceedings involving juveniles are not open to the public, Calhoun could not confirm how the matter was resolved.
Speaking generally, she said it was "always an issue when we deal with very young people whether or not they actually possess the requisite intent to commit crimes."
The lawsuit -- filed by local attorneys Jason Delk, Daniel Gibson and Michael McNally -- alleges that:
John and Jane Doe "received a horrifying phone call" from the parent of another Burris student informing them of their own son's victimization on Dec. 5, 2011. However, the parents did not discover "the full extent of the sexual abuse" for several days because "teachers and administrators at Burris failed to inform the Does of the nature of the abuse, even though Burris had knowledge of the horrific events."
The Does eventually discovered their son had been "forced to give and receive oral sex and engage in inappropriate touching with other second-grade boys" in Burris' bathrooms, library and classroom "during school hours," with the abuse involving at least 11 incidents over a three-month period.
"Ball State, Burris and (second-grade teacher Janis) Segedy allowed these students to freely use the restroom together unsupervised for lengthy periods of time in groups of three or four."
When students approached the teacher with allegations certain boys in the class were "doing things to other boys' private parts," the teacher allegedly told them to stop "tattling."
Complaints about an "abusive" recess "game" in which male students would grab at genitals of classmates "fell on deaf ears."
School officials were aware one of the students involved in the abuse, described in the suit as a "ring leader," had been required to go to the bathroom alone at his previous school "as a result of his inappropriate bathroom behavior."
The suit alleges Burris "engaged in a systematic effort to 'cover up' these incidents to keep it from becoming public knowledge, "and that school officials knew about the abuse several days before authorities were contacted.
The Does allege the defendants "created an environment of sexual indifference" that resulted in their son being "deprived of access to the education opportunities and benefits" offered by Burris. The school is also accused of permitting "peer-to-peer sexual harassment to occur without consequence, thereby emboldening abusers and harassers to continue to engage in such conduct."
The Does ask that a jury determine damages in the case.
Calhoun said Monday authorities had looked into allegations the events at Burris were not promptly reported to authorities, and to date had not uncovered evidence to support such claims.
"If more information is available, we will look at it again," she said.
Last year, a now-former administrator at Central High School was convicted of a misdemeanor after he was charged with not reporting a sexual assault at that school in a timely manner.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse in Los Angeles or anywhere in California and needs advice and help from an attorney, call the offices of Glotzer & Sweat, LLP statewide toll free @ 866-229-0101 or visit us our website:  www.victimslawyer.com