West Hartford Board of Education Receives Sexual Assault Lawsuit

The lawsuit alleges, in part, the negligence of West Hartford Public Schools concerning the rape of an autistic student at King Philip Middle School in the fall of 2013.

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By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Board of Education was presented with a lawsuit on Monday, June 15, 2015, relating to charges that a 13-year-old autistic boy who was a student at King Philip Middle School was bullied and subsequently sodomized by another King Philip student during the fall of 2013.

The plaintiff and his parents, who have received permission by the court to use the pseudonyms “Child Doe,” “Mother Doe,” and “Father Doe,” claim that a male classmate, referred to in the complaint by the pseudonym “John Smith,” bullied and ultimately raped Child Doe.

According to the complaint, that bullying included an incident “on or about October 17, 2013” when “John Smith confronted Child Doe in a school bathroom, pulled his pants down and invaded his personal space.”

Also according to the complaint, following that incident Mother Doe met with King Philip Vice Principal Patricia Mulhall who “promised to implement a safety plan immediately, separating John Smith and Child Doe so that there would be no contact anywhere at the school between the two without adult supervision.”

John Smith, according to the complaint, also allegedly bullied another autistic student at King Philip.

Child Doe and John Smith were separated into different classrooms, according to the complaint. However, according to the complaint the two were allowed “to be in the boy’s locker room, unsupervised, for weeks, during which time John Smith repeatedly attempted to sodomize Child Doe with his pants on,” resulting in extreme emotional distress to Child Doe.

The complaint alleges that: “Ultimately on or about November 8, 2013, John Smith sodomized Child Doe without his consent while they were left alone in the boy’s locker room at the school.”

The lawsuit, which requests an unspecified amount of damages, claims negligence on the part of “teachers, adminstrators and staff of the School and Board of Education” for failure to prevent the continued inappropriate touching and the eventual rape of Child Doe by John Smith.

The suit also alleges that a safety plan was not adopted and implemented following the October 17, 2013 incident, and negligence on the part of the defendents for “allowing an unlocked boy’s locker room to remain unsupervised when they knew, or should have known, of John Smith’s propensity to bully and act in a sexually inappropriate manner.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the negligence on the part of the defendents was covered up.

The plaintiffs request that in the future there be adult supervision of all locker rooms in all schools in West Hartford, and also request termination of employment of “any administrator, teacher or staff of the School who was responsible for Child Doe being sodomized by John [Smith].”

West Hartford Assistant Corporation Council Kimberly Boneham, speaking on behalf of Corporation Council Joseph O’Brien, said Wednesday that she could not comment on the charges and issued the following statement when asked about the case: “We can’t comment on pending litigation except to say that we intend to vigorously defend this claim.”

This is the second sexual assault case that the West Hartford Board of Education has received in the past 12 months. The other case, filed in June 2014, alleges that an Sedgwick Middle School eighth grade student was harrassed and sexually assaulted by three other students in the boy’s locker room of the school in April 2013 and alleges negligence on the part of several health and physical education teachers.

The Sedgwick case is mentioned as one of the points of the complaint in the King Philip case. According to a representative of Child Doe’s law firm, Howard, Kohn Sprague & Fitzgerald, LLP, that mention was made in order to show a pattern. The Sedgwick case is still in the discovery case and Boneham said she could not comment on that pending litigation.

A press release from Child Doe’s law firm states in part: “By this legal action, the parents are seeking justice so that the school district corrects its noncompliance with Connecticut law concerning bullying. In response to this tragedy, the school district acted indecently by failing to provide the parents any explanation or information, and has denied any wrongdoing or responsibility. The legal action seeks to correct this indecency. The parents do not want to see this happen to another child.”

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