(CN) – A South Florida student claims in court that the Miami-Dade County School Board damaged her reputation when it released information that identified her as the victim of a sexual assault to a local TV station.
In a circuit court complaint filed June 16, the student says the school board failed to properly train its police department in the preparation and release of “Internal Affairs Investigations.”
The student, who was 15 at the time, claims that when she left Miami Jackson Senior High School on April 3, 2013, she was sexually assaulted by an adult male.
According to the complaint, her family believed that she was missing and her father contacted the police to try to find her.
On that same day, the teen received random text messages saying “Where are you?” and “Are you OK?” from police officer Juan Cecchinelli, who was a friend of her family, the complaint says.
She returned home the next day and met with Cecchinelli, and he confirmed that he had sent her the text messages.
The girl claims that on April 5, 2013, she received more text messages from Cecchinelli and he asked her not to tell her parents that she was chatting with him.
She says that after she confided in Cecchinelli and told him that she had been the victim of a sexual assault, he started to send her inappropriate and graphic text messages.
She goes on to claim that on April 8, 2013, Cecchinelli told her to come to his office and when she complied, he began to ask her inappropriate questions regarding the sexual assault and other matters.
The complaint says that when she showed the text messages to her teacher, Yamaris Roman, she was directed to talk to the school principal, Carlos Rios.
Rios contacted the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department and requested an internal affairs investigation to be conducted.
“A forensic analysis of Cecchinelli’s Department issued cell phone and computer verified that his phone and computer were the sources of the inappropriate text messages,” the complaint says.
On June 17, 2013, the police department issued an internal affairs memorandum on the matter. The memo specifically says that under Florida law, “it is unlawful to publish or broadcast information identifying sexual offense victims.”
Despite this, the complaint says, the department released the memorandum to defendant Channel 10 and the station later both broadcast and published a story on its website identifying the teenager and reporting “the student had apparently run away, and was sexually assaulted.”
The news report also revealed the sexually explicit text messages that Cecchinelli had sent to her.
The complaint says Channel 10 included the student’s initials in its report, named her high school and even the name of the teacher who advised her to talk to the principal. This, the plaintiff says, made it easy for members of the public to identify her as the victim of a sexual assault.
After her information was revealed to the public, the student dropped out of school and became despondent and depressed, the complaint says.
She is seeking compensatory damages on claims of gross negligence, violation of Florida Statutes and infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Luke Lirot from Luke Charles Lirot PA in Clearwater, Fla.
A representative of the school board did not respond to a phone request for comment on the lawsuit.