Mother sues Gary schools over alleged sexual assault of special education student

2012-01-20T18:30:00Z 2012-01-21T12:14:12Z Mother sues Gary schools over alleged sexual assault of special education studentBy Marc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
January 20, 2012 6:30 pm  • 

The mother of a 14-year-old special education student is suing Gary Community School Corp. following the alleged sexual assault of the girl at the hands of two male students.

The mother alleges in Hammond federal court documents filed Friday the assault occurred Sept. 13 in a darkened classroom at Gary's West Side Leadership Academy during a 30-minute movie.

Teacher Michael Exum, who is named in the lawsuit along with the School Board and West Side Principal Charlotte Wright, left his students unattended during the film, the lawsuit alleges.

Sarita Stevens, Gary Community School Corp. spokeswoman, said school officials could not comment on the case, as litigation and an investigation in the matter are pending.

After Exum left the classroom, two boys dragged the victim to the back of the room and partially disrobed and fondled the girl, the lawsuit alleges.

One of the boys had been accused earlier that day of touching another seventh-grade girl or girls inappropriately at the school, the suit states.

Attorneys for the 14-year-old girl allege negligence on the part of the teacher for leaving the room and on school officials for turning "a blind eye" to possible previous assaults by one of the male students.

"Wright did not exercise her duty to (the victim) with the level of care that an ordinary prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances when she received a report of sexual assault committed by one of the same students who sexually assaulted (the victim) earlier in the same day," the lawsuit states.

The suit seeks unspecified damages for the victim's "severe emotional distress and extreme interference with her ability to attend school."

West Side is a public school providing education for students in seventh through 12th grade.

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