Lawsuit claims sex abuse among second graders at Muncie school

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The parents of a Muncie second grader filed a lawsuit against Burris Laboratory School claiming the 8-year-old boy suffered repeated sexual abuse from classmates—while teachers and administrators did nothing about it.

According to the suit filed last week in Delaware County, the boy’s parents received a “horrifying phone call” from another parent informing them of “sexual abuse, molestation and sexual harassment” at school.

The parents—identified only as “Jane and John Doe” in the lawsuit—learned days later about the scope of that abuse. According to court documents, the child—identified in the lawsuit as “Junior Doe”—suffered the abuse over a three-month period on at least 11 different occasions.

According to the filing, that abuse included forced oral sex and inappropriate touching of a sexual nature with other second grade boys in “the restrooms, library and classrooms” at Burris Laboratory School.

The parents said they only learned about the extent of the abuse after the father confronted administrators and staff.

Officials at Ball State University, which runs the school, told Fox59 they were aware of the lawsuit and said they alerted authorities when allegations about the behavior first came to light.

“In December 2011, (the university) became aware of reported concerns about allegations of inappropriate behavior among four second grade students at Burris,” said Tony Proudfoot, associate vice president of marketing and communications at Ball State University.

“These concerns were reported promptly by Burris to the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS). Local law enforcement was also involved in reviewing the matter.”

Ball State officials, however, said the allegations were unwarranted.

According to the lawsuit, four boys were involved in the abuse. All were students from the same class. Their teacher was named as a defendant along with Ball State University, the Ball State University Board of Trustees and Burris Laboratory School.

The students were given free run of the restrooms and were unsupervised for long periods of time, court documents said. Other students approached the teacher to tell her that certain boys “were doing things to other boys’ private parts.” Instead of investigating, the lawsuit said, the teacher told students to “sit down and stop ‘tattling’ on others.”

The lawsuit also claimed that students had complete, unrestricted access to the internet via school computers and school-provided iPads. Once on the internet, the students would watch pornographic videos and then “act out” the scenes in various locations around the school.

Students also played a game in which male students ran around and grabbed each other’s genitals, the lawsuit said. The game was reported to teachers and administrators, but no one took action.

The lawsuit pointed to one particular student as the “ring leader” who forced the boy to engage in sex acts at school. According to the lawsuit, that particular student had a long history of bad behavior and predatory tendencies. At his previous school, the student was required to go to the bathroom by himself—a fact the lawsuit claimed the school knew or should have known.

The parents claimed that the school had “actual knowledge” of the events before contacting them or alerting authorities. Court documents accused Burris Laboratory School of a “systematic effort to ‘cover up’” the incidents to keep them from the public.

“The allegations in the complaint…bear no resemblance to the evidence or results of the investigations of the university or those of the agencies to which it was reported,” Proudfoot said.

“From this point forward, the university will vigorously defend these unwarranted allegations. Our commitment to the safety of the students at Burris and the university are of paramount importance, and we fully expect the evidence to bear this out.”

The lawsuit claimed the parents and child all “suffered physical, emotional and psychological harm” as a result of the abuse and the school’s “blatant disregard for student supervision and safety.”

The plaintiffs accused the school and teacher of negligence for failing to protect students and investigate the claims. They cited gaps in supervision and the lack of security measures to keep students from accessing inappropriate material on computers and iPads.

The parents are asking for a jury trial.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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