CHARLESTON, W. Va. (CN) – Employees’ blind adherence to school rules led to the gang rape of a 13-year-old cheerleader who had twice asked adults for help after missing her bus home, the girl’s parents say in a federal lawsuit.
The parents, both of whose initials are S.E., say their daughter, B.E., was captain of Mount Hope Middle School’s cheerleading squad. On Nov. 12, 2010, she was required to stay after school to pick up uniforms for her team from the cheerleading coach, defendant Linda Nevi, the family says.
Nevi took a long time assembling the uniforms, so B.E. missed her school bus ride home. B.E. went to the school office and asked to use the phone to call her parents, but a staff member in the office refused to let her make the call, the family says.
So B.E. made her way to the gym, where a boys’ basketball practice was under way. She borrowed a friend’s cell phone, called her parents and said she would ride home with her friend when his parents picked him up after practice.
B.E. tried to find a safe place inside school to wait for her ride home, but when she went back to the school office, she found the door locked and the staff gone. She went back to the school gym, where basketball coach Bo Morrison, also a defendant, told her she could not stay there during practice, according to the complaint.
Forced to wait outside the gym, “B.E. was confronted by various male Mount Hope High School student athletes … [who ranged] in age from 16 to 17 years old,” the complaint states.
It continues: “Prior to November 12, 2010, one or more of the male students had exhibited misconduct in school and also exhibited and engaged in predatory and sexual behavior toward women in general and female students in particular, of which misconduct and behavior defendant Mount Hope High School and its official had received actual notice;
“The student athletes forced plaintiff B.E. to a room commonly used by students at Mount Hope High School to engage in sexual acts;
“In this room, the student athletes raped and physically assaulted plaintiff B.E. while another female juvenile was present;
“After being raped and physically and sexually assaulted, plaintiff B.E. returned to sitting outside the gymnasium to wait for the ride home with [a] fellow student”.
B.E. says her friend, the basketball player, found her there crying, in the company of the other girl who had witnessed the attack. He informed his mother, a nurse, and B.E. was taken to Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital.
The family says of the defendants, which include Mount Hope High School Principal Mike Hutchins, Vice Principal Leah Hutchins, and the Fayette County Board of Education “failed to properly supervise students and/or provide a safe school environment, resulting in plaintiff B.E.’s rape and physical and sexual assault on school grounds;
“Despite having actual knowledge of plaintiff B.E.’s rape and physical and sexual assault at Mount Hope High School, defendants, and each of them, failed to recognize the rape … and failed to take prompt and effective remedial action calculated to prevent reoccurrence of the act and to set forth a safe school environment in accordance with Title IX.”
The family says B.E. has been unable to return to her classes, “due to the threatening, humiliating, abusive, unsafe and hostile environment at Mount Hope High School”.
She has been forced to leave Fayette County and enroll in another school district.
The family seeks a court order forcing the school to implement policies to protect students from sexual abuse, and compensatory and punitive damages for negligent supervision, negligence, willful, wanton and reckless conduct, intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress and violation of Title IX.
They are represented by Matthew A. Victor with Victor, Victor & Helgoe.