The teenage girl was abused for a period of nearly two weeks–in a small, three-row bus with the driver present.
A recently-filed lawsuit alleges that a 14-year old girl with developmental disabilities was sexually abused on a school-bus for several days and then raped, all while the driver refused to intervene.
The lawsuit, writes The New York Times, was filed in federal court on March 3rd. It accuses the Fulton County School District in Georgia of failing to protect a vulnerable student as well as discrimination.
According the Times, the girl—who’s pseudonymously referred to as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit—was taking the bus home from school in April 2019 when the abuse began.
“Unbelievably, the sexual abuse took place in only three to four rows of seats on a small special-needs school bus,” attorney Lee Parks said in a statement.
The complaint, recalls the Times, clarifies that the girl has neurodevelopmental disabilities and “functions at a cognitive and communicate level far below her actual age.”
“While displaying a sweet and innocent young childlike nature due to her cognitive and communicative deficiencies, Doe struggles to interact with and clearly communicate with other individuals to express her feelings and protect herself in potentially dangerous interactions with other people,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges that the abuse began in early April of 2019. On April 4th, the abuse began when Doe’s classmate—a boy with special needs—sat next to her. He attempted to fondle her and began kissing her breasts.
“Emboldened by the lack of discipline and restraint,” another student began assaulting Doe in a similar manner.
Less than a week later, between April 10th and 11th, the abuse escalated. The second student removed Doe’s shirt in the bus and also exposed her genitals. Then, between the 15th and 20th, he compounded his assaults by forcing her to perform oral sex on him.
“It was not until April 20, 2019, after Doe had been stripped naked, physically battered and raped, that the bus driver reported to F.C.S.D. that he had ‘noticed something,’” the lawsuit says.
Parks said the rape was recorded by video and audio recording systems in the special-needs bus; while Doe’s parents had requested copies of the tapes, their request was denied by the district.
“The details of the assault and rape were confirmed by the school system after their review of the video recordings,” Parks said in a statement. “We had to file suit in order to obtain access to the raw footage and hope to have it by the month’s end.”
The lawsuit, recalls the Times, mentions that, before the assault, the special-needs bus had had a faculty monitor as well as a driver. Due to budgetary limitations, the monitor was removed, leaving only the driver to supervise the students.
At no point until Doe was raped, the lawsuit emphasizes, did the driver do anything to stop what was happening.
“The multiple acts of sexual assault and rape over a period of almost two weeks could not have taken place without the knowledge and/or deliberate indifference of the Bus driver, who never once intervened to protect Doe and report Students A and B to FCSD and the police,” the suit states.
BuzzFeed and the Times both reprinted an excerpt from a district spokesperson, who said that the allegations raised in the complaint are “extremely serious and concerning.” The same spokesperson said that the driver was “separated immediately” after the abuse was first reported in 2019.
“Because we are dealing with minor students, this is a particularly sensitive matter,” the spokesperson said. “We need to allow any ongoing investigations to be complete and respect the privacy of all students allegedly involved. We look forward to the case being adjudicated through the legal process, not by attempting to make legal gains with press statements and grandstanding.”