WTOC Investigates: Sexual assault case at middle school in Liberty County
LIBERTY CO., GA (WTOC) - When we send our children to public school, there are several expectations that we as parents have about what is to take place. First and foremost is that our child will be protected.
There is now a 15-year-old boy in Liberty County who says he didn't get the most basic of expectations from Midway Middle School back in September 2016. He was just 13 then. In fact, if his story is to be believed, this child was ignored by the staff even after he complained of a sexual assault in the school bathroom. He says because his first complaint was ignored, he was targeted again the same day. If his story is to be believed, what happened to this young boy goes against every school policy and state statute on the books related to sexual assaults at school.
It was Sept. 8, 2016. Fourth period had just let out and the fifth-period bell was about to ring at the middle school. The then 13-year-old plaintiff - in a just-filed civil suit - says he was in a bathroom stall when a fellow student pushed his way into the same stall and sexually assaulted him. The victim ended up being 20 minutes late to class.
"He was late to class and his teacher asked him why he was late to class and he told the teacher what had happened in the bathroom. At that point, the teacher had a legal obligation to report that and to take steps to protect my client," said attorney, Will Claiborne.
The lawsuit claims the teacher said nothing. Even the school policy - required reading for every staff member - makes that point very clear. Under behavior problems that require immediate referral to the office, 'threats of violence directed toward a teacher, staff member, or another student.'
The victim's mom remembers well the conversation she had with that fifth-period teacher.
"We had gotten a call that night. It was probably about 8 something p.m. from the teacher saying that my son was skipping class, and I'm like, 'my son doesn't skip class.' I've never gotten a call like that before," the victim's mother said.
The call got more pointed as it continued.
'He came to tell you and your response was, 'another student will only go as far as you'll allow them to.' That was her response, and I said, 'are you serious? So, you just made it seem like it was my son's fault for being touched,' and she was like, 'well, I had taken my medication and I wasn't in my right mind,' the victim's mother said.
Ignoring the initial incident, the student says, made his situation much worse. That same afternoon on the school bus ride home, the same fellow student is accused of sexually assaulting the same 13-year-old again. This time, according to the victim, the assault came with a warning. 'If you tell anyone I'm gay, I'm going to beat you up.'
The next day, the mom showed up at the school and reported the two incidents to the principal. Police were called and counseling was offered to the victim. Then, the family says - nothing.
The police report we received is nothing more than a couple of fully redacted pages. The school district, now aware of the family's intent, told us, 'the district has been notified of a potential lawsuit regarding this issue. Therefore, we will be unable to provide any information at this time.'
Was the teacher reprimanded for her refusal to report the boy's claims of sexual assault? The school won't say. Was the student accused of the two sexual assaults reprimanded? No one will say.
The family insists their son 'suffered severe and permanent psychological, emotional, and physical injuries, shame, humiliation, and the inability to lead a normal life.'
"That could have been avoided if that teacher had just listened to my son and took action, and she didn't. She just made it seem like it was his fault."
Short of a settlement, the civil suit is asking for a jury to decide what the damages should be.
"The school system has had an ample opportunity to do the right thing, to acknowledge that they made an error and to make it right. Unfortunately, they've chosen not to do that."
The Liberty County School District was quick to respond to our request for information related to this young boy's claims, provided that information didn't include anything about the incident, the teacher involved, or the student accused of the crimes. Basically, they sent us a copy of the Midway Middle School Teacher's Handbook.
If this case does go to trial, we'll be sure to keep you updated.
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