Lawsuit: 5-year-old SC student ‘frequently’ sexually assaulted on school bus

Updated: Oct. 14, 2020 at 12:06 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A lawsuit has been filed by a parent against Richland School District One after a 5-year-old student said she was sexually assaulted on a school bus.

According to the lawsuit, the girl was on a bus sometime on or around February 21, 2020, when an older student pulled out his penis, showed it to her, and asked her to perform oral sex. The girl told her mother she clamped her mouth shut while the older boy tried to push her head down. The suit says the student told her mother she was frequently touched inappropriately by the older boy.

The suit also noted that the bus had a policy where younger students were required to sit at the front of the bus and older students were required to sit on the back of the bus so that younger students could be easily monitored by the bus driver.

On February 24, the girl’s mother reported the incident to the school. During an investigation by school officials, the school determined the incident happened on Feb. 12. After watching surveillance footage from the bus, school officials also noticed that she was “frequently” sexually assaulted by an older boy while she was sitting within one seat distance from the bus driver.

During the afternoon drop-off on Feb. 12 just before 6 p.m., the lawsuit says the video showed the older boy in the 5-year-old girl’s personal space while they were sitting on the second seat across the aisle from the bus driver and the girl raising her hand saying “he touched my butt.”

On Feb. 18, another video showed the boy “grinding up” against the girl and kissing her on the cheek while sitting on the second seat across the aisle from the bus driver. That happened just before 3 p.m. The video also showed the girl “wiping” the kiss-off of her face. Minutes later, the boy grabbed the girl by her chin and kissed her on the lips before the door opened for him to get off the bus.

Two days later, an additional video showed the boy putting his arm around the girl and pulling her head toward his lap. The lawsuit says the girl struggled to fight the boy while they were sitting directly behind the bus driver.

“Children should be safe and secure from sexual assault, violence, and harassment while traveling to school on school buses. Furthermore, parents should feel comfortable knowing that their children are in a safe environment while outside of their care traveling on school buses. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for my 5-year old client and her mother is traumatized about the sexual assault and harassment her daughter was frequently forced to endure within a few feet of her bus driver,” The student’s attorney, Tyler D. Bailey, said in a statement.

According to the bus policy, the boy “should have been sitting in the back of the bus away from the young female pre-K students…”

The suit states the girl suffered “severe and permanent physical and emotional injuries as a result of the frequent sexual assaults and harassment…”

The suit lists the following causes of action:

  • Negligence/gross negligence and/or recklessness
  • Outrage
  • Premise liability
  • Negligent supervision/negligent hiring/negligent training/negligent retention

The plaintiff in the suit is seeking actual, incidental, and consequential damages for all causes of action, court costs, and “further relief as the court may deem just and proper.”

“My clients have a long road to travel towards their recovery, and we hope that Richland School District One will do everything within their power to assist them with their recovery,” Bailey said. “Importantly, we also hope that this lawsuit forces Richland School District One and other school districts across South Carolina to enact and enforce policies and procedures that will prevent this from happening to other young vulnerable students traveling on school buses in the future.”

A Richland School District One Spokesperson said in a statement to WIS in response to the lawsuit that the district does not comment on pending litigation.

WIS has chosen not to publish the lawsuit in an effort to protect the identities of those named in the document.

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