A former Ramona Convent Secondary School student filed a lawsuit this week against the Alhambra school, saying chaperones failed to adequately supervise a class trip, which led to her being sexually assaulted by another teen.
The former student, who was a senior at the all-girls Catholic school at the time, said she was half-asleep in the middle of the night during a retreat in October 2017 when she felt a female classmate massage one of her thighs and touch her breasts and genitals, according to the complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Sister Kathleen Callaway, the school’s president, said Friday she had not seen the lawsuit and was unable to comment.
School employees who chaperoned the trip to Lake Hughes, northwest of Palmdale, did not stay in the cabins with students during the weeklong trip, but instead slept in a separate house on the grounds. During the first night of the retreat, a chaperone made sure all the girls were in the cabin about 9 p.m. and then left for the night, the suit says.
There was no lock on the cabin door, and the teens were afraid of being alone “in what seemed like the middle of nowhere without any type of protection, so they decided to pair off — sharing a bunk bed while sleeping in their own sleeping bags,” according to the lawsuit.
That’s when the former student says she was groped by another girl who was sleeping in her bunk. The teen said she threw her assailant’s arm away from her twice and then went to an empty bunk, where she stayed until morning.
The teen told two chaperones about the incident, who then took her to the main chaperone to report it, the suit states. The teacher told her to stay in the main chaperone house and said someone would bring her meals throughout the day. The teen left briefly to have breakfast and attend Mass but was escorted back to the house, where she waited for the rest of the day.
The lawsuit says a Ramona counselor told the girl that after interviewing both students, she found the encounter was consensual. The girl denied that claim and was told to “calm down.”
The teen’s father was called to pick her up about 12 hours after she initially reported the incident. The girl’s mother called the school, and a nun told her she “was so sorry about her daughter being sexually assaulted,” the lawsuit states. When the mother asked why she hadn’t been called earlier, the nun replied that “the school did not want to ruin the retreat for the other girls and they had to do their investigation.”
The suit alleges the other student was immediately allowed to return to school. The former student is seeking unspecified damages for emotional distress and suffering.