SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The family of a sex abuse victim today announced the filing of a civil lawsuit against the Ocosta School District alleging the school district negligently failed to provide a safe learning environment on school property, which resulted in the molestation of a minor student.
Filed in Grays Harbor Superior Court by the legal representative for a 7-year-old Grays Harbor girl, the suit against the Ocosta School District claims the district was negligent in its failure to prevent a 15-year old student from repeatedly sexually assaulting the girl in 2017.
The suit claims the district failed to report what the child’s representative says were clear and obvious signs that the assailant was a danger to the victim, and other students. He was later found guilty of first-degree child molestation, a Class A felony.
The assailant, referred to as JJ, was found guilty in juvenile court and sentenced to 130 weeks in a juvenile facility. He will need to register as a sex offender upon his release.
Contrary to school practice, JJ was allowed to sit in the front of the school-operated bus, an area generally reserved for younger students allowing the bus driver to better observe behavior, court documents state. Records show that JJ was moved forward to sit with the younger students because he was bullied by his peers over his personal-hygiene practices.
On June 6, 2017, the bus driver witnessed JJ holding the hand of the 7-year-old victim “like a boyfriend and girlfriend would hold hands,” and reported the behavior to the school district, who in turn contacted the Grays Harbor sheriff.
According to Sim Osborn, attorney for the victim, the school district created the conditions for the abuse to occur, and then failed to prevent the abuse from happening.
“We’ve learned from the police investigation and from our own work that this was not a one-time offense; rather, the school district’s lack of oversight allowed JJ to sexually abuse this poor girl nearly 20 times over the course of many weeks,” Osborn said. “What’s worse, we’ve learned that there are at least two other children abused by JJ, perhaps more.”
Osborn noted that beyond putting the 15-year-old next to much younger children, the district failed to adequately monitor students’ behavior on the bus. He noted that the video system in the bus was frequently inoperable, and when it was working, the cameras were so poorly positioned the footage was unusable.
Police records show that JJ would often ask the bus driver to sit next to specific girls, including the girl he was convicted of abusing. When questioned about his actions, JJ admitted to sheriff’s deputies that he committed at least 18 separate acts of child molestation on the plaintiff, and acknowledged he committed the acts for sexual gratification in a signed statement.
Osborn said the victim is seeking psychological help and has demonstrated behavior common with young victims of sex crimes.
“She will need years – perhaps a lifetime – of professional help to try and repair the unspeakable damage she suffered at JJ’s hands, and by the school’s failure to protect her,” Osborn added.
Osborn noted that the victim’s family wants the school system to make changes to the way it supervises students on school busses. He added that the suit asks the court to award the victim damages to pay for medical and psychological treatments, and for pain and suffering.
Raymond Dearie is the victim’s court-appointed litigation guardian in this matter.
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