Two families of students have sued the Puyallup School District over allegations that their special-needs sons were molested in a classroom bathroom by another special-needs student.
Both families contend in a lawsuit filed April 27 in Pierce County Superior Court that they weren’t notified until nearly a year after the incidents allegedly occurred. In addition, they say school officials failed to notify state Child Protective Services (CPS) and law enforcement in a timely manner. They also say school staff failed to adequately supervise the boy whom they accuse of sexually abusing their sons.
Carlos Chavez, an attorney for the school district, said it “disagrees with the allegations, particularly the characterization of its staff. The district believes the staff responded appropriately.”
Chavez said the district will be filing an answer to the allegations contained in the lawsuit in a few weeks.
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Attorneys for the families allege in their written complaint that the incidents occurred while all three students were enrolled at Ridgecrest Elementary School in the fall of 2013. The lawsuit claims the families weren’t notified of the alleged abuse until nearly a year after it occurred, in September 2014.
Puyallup Schools spokesman Brian Fox said the district learned about allegations of “inappropriate touching between students” at the South Hill school.
“Once the district was aware of the allegations, we contracted with legal counsel to conduct an investigation,” he said. “We also contacted law enforcement and parents. We also took actions to ensure everyone at Ridgecrest was safe.”
He said the district concluded at the end of its investigation that the allegations were unsubstantiated.
According to the complaint filed with the court, one of the families said that after they were told about the incident involving their son, the district asked them to wait for more answers until the district investigation was completed.
Worried that neither CPS nor police had been notified, they reported the allegations to both. They say a CPS intake worker told them the school had not reported the alleged sexual assault. They also say that a district official refused to give a statement to a school resource officer who was assigned to take an initial report.
The male student who allegedly molested the boys from both families had a history exhibiting sexual behaviors, and had previously grabbed a teacher’s breasts and genitals, inappropriately grabbed female students at recess and entered the classroom bathroom while other students were using the toilet, the complaint states.
The lawsuit contends that the district failed to protect other students and failed to limit access to the in-classroom bathroom, despite knowing the alleged attacker’s history.
Fox said he could not comment on specific measures that would have been taken to control the alleged offender. He said that in order to receive special education services, students must have an IEP (individualized education program), a written plan tailored to each student’s unique needs.