School of the Year - Not
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (CN) - A middle school student says that after she was "forcibly raped" on campus, school administrators expelled her and made her write and hand-deliver a letter of apology to the rapist, who eventually raped her again.
After the second rape, she says, the school suspended her for "disrespectful conduct" and "public display of affection," though a medical exam showed she had been sexually assaulted.
E.R., a special-needs student, and her mother, D.R., sued the Republic R-III School District and three of its employees in Federal Court, including Patricia Mithelavage, principal of Republic Middle School, where the rape allegedly took place.
E.R. claims that as a 7th grader, she "was subjected to multiple sexual assaults on the premises of the Republic Middle School by a fellow student," identified as F.S., during the 2008-2009 school year.
"The sexual harassment and assaults culminated, during the spring semester of the 2008-2009 school year, in E.R. being forcibly raped by F.S. on the premises of the Republic Middle School," the complaint states.
E.R. reported the rape to school officials, who told her mother "that they did not find E.R.'s allegations credible and that they believed E.R. had fabricated the assaults," according to the complaint.
The mother says that after her daughter reported the rape, she was "subjected to multiple intimidating interrogations by school officials at which D.R. was not present. During these interrogations, school officials informed E.R. at various times that they thought she was lying about the rape and assaults.
"Within days after E.R. had informed school authorities that she had been raped, her mother was called and told that, during a meeting at which her mother was not present, E.R had recanted her allegations of rape and sexual assault."
But the mother says: "E.R. continued to tell D.R. and her counselor she had been raped. E.R. said she finally told school officials what they wanted to hear because they wouldn't believe her."
The complaint continues: "Located in E.R.'s school file was a psychological report which clearly indicated that E.R. was conflict adverse, behaviorally passive, and 'would forego her own needs and wishes to satisfy the request of others around so that she can be accepted ...'
"School officials neglected to review E.R.'s file and psychological profile before interviewing her.
"School officials failed to refer E.R. to the Child Advocacy Counsel or a medical professional for a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam ('SAFE' exam) after her report of rape in the 2008-2009 school year.
"School officials, although mandatory reporters under Missouri's Child Abuse Reporting Law, failed to report E.R.'s complaints to the Division of Family Services or to Greene County Juvenile Authorities.
"School officials, without informing or receiving the permission of D.R., forced E.R. to write her rapist an apology letter which she was required to personally deliver to F.S.
"School officials expelled E.R. for the remainder of the 2008-2009 school year for allegedly fabricating the story of her repeated sexual harassment, assault, and rape.
"School officials referred E.R. to juvenile authorities for allegedly filing a false report.
"The suspension and referral to authorities was the result of school officials' intent to retaliate against E.R. for the acts of reporting sexual harassment and abuse which were potentially embarrassing to the School District and to them as school supervisors."
The alleged rapist, F.S., was not disciplined, the mother says.
She claims school officials denied her requests for additional monitoring and security for her daughter for the following school year, and that the girl lived in constant fear of F.S. and was unable to sleep most nights. She says F.S. subjected her daughter to more sexual assaults throughout the 2009-2010 school year.
Finally, the mom says: "On or about February 16, 2010, during the spring semester of the 2009-2010 school year, F.S., not being subject to any surveillance or monitoring, was able to hunt E.R. down, drag her to the back of the school library, and again forcibly rape her.
"E.R. immediately informed school authorities that another rape had occurred.
"Instead of conducting a reasonable investigation, school officials approached E.R.'s claims with the same skepticism as the year before, even going so far as to state that they had 'already been through this."
The mother says that she herself took her daughter to the Child Advocacy Center for a Forensic Interview and Sexual Assault Forensic Exam.
The complaint continues: "The SAFE exam showed a positive finding for sexual assault.
"School officials, however, suspended E.R. from school for 'Disrespectful Conduct' and 'Public Display of Affection,' despite the results of the SAFE exam.
"This second suspension was motivated by school officials' desire to retaliate against E.R. for reporting sexual harassment and abuse and potentially embarrassing the School District and defendants.
"Semen collected from E.R.'s person by the Republic Police Department was found to be a DNA match to F.S.
"F.S. was taken into custody in Juvenile Court and pled guilty to charges brought against him."
The mother and daughter seek punitive damages for civil rights violations, constitutional violations, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by M. Douglas Harpool with Baird, Lightner Millsap & Harpool of Springfield, Mo.