HONOLULU (CN) – A mother claims dozens of students at a state school for the deaf and blind were sexually abused and the head of the school knew of the abuses but failed to report them.
The mother of John Doe, who is deaf, says her son was one of as many as 35 students who were sexually abused by a gang who called themselves the “Ringleaders” at the Hawaii Center for the Deaf and Blind. She sued the State of Hawaii, the school, its administrator Sydney Dickerson, and a counselor, Scott O’Neal, in state court.
“Students, including plaintiff John Doe, were coerced into submitting to anal sex with multiple members of the Ringleaders,” the mother says.
She says, “A young girl at the school became pregnant, which was known to school officials.”
The complaint continues: “The Ringleaders coerced students into doing what the Ringleaders wanted by threats of violence and sexual attack, including sodomy and rape.
“Under coercion by the Ringleaders, John Doe was forced to surrender to them various items of property, including clothing and video games.
“The Ringleaders threatened that if John Doe did not provide them with what they wanted, he would be harmed and sexually assaulted.
“At times when John Doe had nothing to provide the Ringleaders, they proceeded to fulfill their threats and engaged in sexual acts with John Doe, including on school property.
“Students, including plaintiff John Does, were coerced into submitting to anal sex with multiple members of the Ringleaders. …
“At one point, a young girl in the presence of other students was coerced into giving oral sex to a member of the Ringleaders who filmed the act on his cell phone.”
The mother, Jane Doe, claims that the “defendants had actual or constructive knowledge of what was going on.”
She adds: “Scott O’Neal himself engaged in inappropriate and questionable activities with students at the school, including having them stay with him overnight.
“Out of malice and an improper purpose, defendants at times concealed and conspired to conceal what was going on an negligently, recklessly, and intentionally failed to take effective action to stop the wrongful activities.”
Doe claims that “For many years, the school has had a problem with certain students, some of whom called themselves the ‘Ringleaders,’ who on an ongoing basis bullied, terrorized, assaulted, robbed, sodomized, raped, anally raped, gang raped, and/or sexually attacked students who were younger and smaller, including plaintiff John Doe.”
Doe claims that school officials and employees of the state Department of Education were informed of the sex-by-intimidation in April 2009, May 2009, and June 2009. The April complaint involved “a deaf student at the school other than the plaintiff [who] had been intimidated into sexual acts with five boys at the school, believed to be Ringleaders,” according to the complaint.
In most states, public school teachers are required to report allegations of sexual abuse of students.
But Jane Doe claims that “Out of malice and an improper purpose, defendants at times concealed and conspired to conceal what was going on and negligently, recklessly and intentionally failed to take effective action to stop the wrongful activities,” which occurred in the school’s bathroom, indoor swimming pool area and woodshop.
She says they did not notify police immediately and “defendants conspired with each other to use threats, intimidation and retaliation to discourage reporting by teachers and parents of the improper activities at the school.”
ABC affiliate KITV reported this month that the Honolulu Police Department has arrested several boys at the school “in an investigation into multiple sexual assault cases at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind.”
The school has, or had 70 students, age 3 to 20.
The Doe family is represented by Michael Jay Green.
Green told KITV: “There’s no question that people in the highest places of DOE knew about this. They knew about it at the very latest in 2009 and probably before … You’re talking about some people that can’t see, so they can’t be witnesses. We have people that can’t hear, so they can’t hear outcries, and somebody has to be held accountable for it. I have a concern that the police investigation was frustrated.”
The Does seek punitive damages for sexual harassment, deliberate indifference, gross negligence and conspiracy.