Parents Say School Gave Bullies Free Ride
SEATTLE (CN) - An eighth grader witnessed a "horrific" sexual assault on her best friend during a school bus ride told administrators, who failed to report it to police, destroyed a videotape of the attack and refused to protect her from the bullies she identified, her parents claim in court.
Jenny and Allen Quynn claim their daughter Lilly received "no help or support" from Chinook Middle School officials and was bullied and harassed by the boys involved in the assault. They sued Bellevue School District in King County Court.
"On December 15, 2010, Lilly Quynn, then an eighth-grade student at Chinook Middle School ('CMS'), witnessed a horrific thing. On her school bus ride home a gang of four boys sexually assaulted her best friend. Lilly reported the assault to school officials the next morning. The school officials never discussed the event with Lilly. They never followed up with her to make sure that she was all right. They did nothing to make sure that she was protected from reprisals for reporting the sexual assault. They never reported the criminal actions on the bus to the police. They never disciplined the boys involved. They destroyed the videotape of the assault recorded by the bus's camera," according to the lawsuit.
"The boys ended up coming after Lilly and bullying and harassing her for the remainder of the school year. Other students harassed her for having done exactly what she should have done: report the sexual assault to school authorities. Lilly received no help or support from the school. The boy most involved in the attack bragged to other students about having been able to 'rape' the girl on the bus," the complaint states.
Lilly was so traumatized by the incident she developed an eating disorder, was hospitalized and diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, her parents say.
"As a result of witnessing the attack, and the subsequent bullying and harassment, Lilly began to undergo profound changes. Her grades started to suffer. She became withdrawn and pulled away from friends and her usual activities. Lilly started to develop a deep fear and insecurity concerning anything related to school. Given the school personnel's indifference to her report and the related bullying and harassment, she did not feel safe at school. She became convinced that what had happened to her friend could happen to her. Lilly's teachers noticed that she appeared frightened and unhappy, that she cried in class, and that her grades continued to decline. Lilly stopped eating at school. She suffered migraine headaches and was sent to the health room where she was told to lie down. No one at the school reported any of this to her parents," the complaint states.
When Lilly reported the attack, she told her parents only that "something scary" had happened on the bus and she didn't want to talk about it. Her parents say the school never notified them that Lilly reported an assault.
"Lilly's parents, Jenny and Allen Quynn, became increasingly alarmed by Lilly's condition. They took her to a number of doctors, counselors, and psychiatrists in an attempt to determine what was wrong with Lilly. These health care providers all asked whether there had been any major change or dramatic event in Lilly's life during the past year. Jenny and Allen answered 'No,' because they had never been informed by personnel at the Bellevue School District about what had happened on the bus or about the subsequent bullying and harassment. Lilly became anorexic and bulimic. She eventually had to be hospitalized at Children's Hospital in Seattle. She became so ill and lost so much weight that her parents thought she might die. Her evaluation at Children's indicated that she had experienced trauma and she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder ('PTSD')," according to the complaint.
Her parents say they could have obtained mental health care for Lilly "long before her condition became so extreme" if the school had told them about the assault.
They claim the school's response was "dead wrong" and hat the district "has a history of placing its reputation ahead of student safety, of allowing chaos on its buses (particularly the bus in question), and most of all, of turning a blind eye to bullying and harassment in its schools."
The Quynns seek damages for negligence, infliction of emotional distress, injury to a child and loss of consortium. They are represented by Michael Wrenn and David Spence of Wren Bender McKown & Ring.