Atlanta Public Schools will pay $750,000 to the family of a student who was allegedly sexually assaulted.
When most parents send their children off to school, there is a certain expectation that their children will be well cared for. One of the last things that cross a parent’s mind when they drop their child off at school is that something bad might happen, or that a teacher might take advantage of their child. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened to a student at Atlanta Public Schools, and as a result, his parents sued the school in 2020. Recently, the school district agreed to settle the federal lawsuit for $750,000.
The suit itself alleged the district “failed to protect the middle school student from a former paraprofessional accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting him.” The suit argued that Sanchez Waller, “who worked at Bunche Middle School as a paraprofessional, sexually assaulted an eighth-grade student on multiple occasions in 2018.” As a result, Waller was terminated from his position in May 2018 and was arrested shortly after. From there, he was charged with child molestation, sexual battery, and other counts. The criminal case is ongoing.
The family’s suit against Atlanta Public Schools claimed the district was aware of “at least one prior incident where Waller had inappropriate contact with another male student months before he allegedly began assaulting their son.” The student is identified by a pseudonym in the court documents.
Unfortunately, the district failed to properly investigate Waller’s prior incidents with the other male student, which allowed him to remain in the school and assault the student mentioned in the lawsuit. The suit further alleged the “district was willfully and deliberately indifferent to Waller’s history of inappropriate contact and the threat he posed.”
The family learned of their son’s alleged abuse in early May 2018 when he told his mother about it. From there, his parents alerted the school, and the student “missed the final three weeks of the school year and suffered depression and a loss of self-confidence” as a result of the abuse. Later, the family left Georgia and filed the lawsuit.
In addition to naming Atlanta Public Schools and Waller as defendants, “former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and Tommy Usher, an associate superintendent, also were also initially named as defendants.” However, back in December, Carstarphen and Usher were dismissed from the lawsuit.
As part of the settlement agreement, the school family will receive two equal payments, “one this fiscal year and one in the fiscal year that begins July 1.” The school board stated the settlement will “fully resolve the pending litigation.”