Lawsuit Alleges 3rd Case of Sexual Abuse by Same Special Needs Student By Cochran Douglas on December 28, 2016

A lawsuit filed earlier this month alleges the Bethel School District failed to protect a female special needs student from a special needs classmate who sexually abused her in 2012 at Bethel High School.

The alleged abuser was involved in two abuse cases at his previous school district, Clover Park, according to Loren Cochran, attorney for the plaintiffs in the most recent suit.

The plaintiffs are named only by initials in court documents.

The first case occurred at Lochburn Middle School in Lakewood in 2011, when the boy — then 13 — led a special needs girl into a restroom and tried to rape her, according to records in the case.

Lakewood police investigated, but no criminal charges were filed.

The boy, described as developmentally disabled, was expelled and transferred to Hudtloff Middle School, where he was accused months later of sexually assaulting a boy.

A jury ordered the Clover Park School District to pay damages in the first case, and the district settled with the plaintiff in the second case.

The boy accused in both cases later transferred to the Bethel School District, where officials said they would ensure the safety of the teen and other students.

The December lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court contends the district failed to protect the boy’s Bethel classmate.

Jerry Moberg, attorney for the school district, said he didn’t want to comment on the complaint.

“We certainly will defend the claim appropriately,” he said Tuesday, adding he had yet to file the district’s answer to the complaint.

According to the most recent lawsuit, the abuse occurred during a physical education class in 2012.

Documents state the boy took the girl by the hand, led her across the Bethel High School football field and into a portable toilet, where he sexually abused her.

The lawsuit alleges other abusive incidents occurred on the high school grounds during school hours.

“This particular case is the third in a line of cases, all involving the same special needs student,” Cochran said. “In each of these cases, he is considerably higher functioning than the special needs students on which he has preyed.”

The boy is now 19 years old, and the girl 18, Cochran said.

The Bethel School District knew about the boy’s history of sexual predation, the lawsuit alleges. Despite this, it contends, the school blamed the girl for the incident and suspended her.

She suffered anxiety and trauma, and increasingly acted out sexually and engaged in self-harm behaviors, according to the lawsuit.

-- Debbie Cafazzo and Alexis Krell, The News Tribune



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