SUMNER COUNTY, TN (WSMV) - A federal lawsuit filed against Sumner County Schools by the parents of a 9-year-old girl alleges that the school system did nothing to protect the girl from being sexually abused by another student.
The lawsuit claims that the parents of the victim first reported the abuse to Burrus Elementary's principal, vice principal, and school counselor in January 2019. A fellow female student had reportedly penetrated the victim's private parts with her fingers in the school's restroom, on the playground, and outside of school.
The lawsuit alleges the school district delivered empty promises to protect the victim and keep the perpetrator away from her, including coming up with a safety plan and having a chaperone whenever both were physically in the same place.
The lawsuit states nothing was done to protect the girl and she "visibly and emotionally showed signs of abuse" and had nightmares, slept in her parent's room, cried, and had flashbacks. She also had trouble managing her emotions, and missed many days of school due to anxiety.
The perpetrator, meanwhile, reportedly confronted the girl and chastised her about reporting the abuse stating "You will have no friends. No one will believe you. I told you not to tell." She also reportedly cornered the girl in a bathroom and forcibly violated her with her fingers again.
All of this occurred over the course of one month. The lawsuit states the parents demanded another meeting to address what the school was doing about the issues in February, saying the school district's actions failed. The school district reportedly offered no further assistance.
The parents state in their lawsuit that the lack of action on the part of Sumner County Schools led to their daughter being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in March of 2019. The victim also had to start counseling and receive limited instruction to finish out the school year.
The parents reportedly tried to separate their child from the perpetrator by getting her transferred to another school nearby which required Sumner County Schools approval.
"In what can only be described as a bureaucratic nightmare, SCS rebuffed them at every turn," the lawsuit alleges.
Multiple attempts to rezone the victim to different area schools were met with road blocks. The lawsuit states that Sumner County Schools did not address the child's mental impairment that would have provided reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The victim has since been withdrawn from Sumner County Schools and the family is now homeschooling her.
"At no time has SCS even had the decency to advise the family of whether an investigation was undertaken, any findings, why the efforts failed, what discipline (if any) was occurring, or what would be different in the future. It failed to offer [redacted] support, counseling, or protection," the lawsuit states.
The victim reportedly lost "educational opportunities and/or benefits, while suffering trauma, humiliation, embarrassment, and pain." Her parents also now have to take on the cost of her being home-schooled.
The parents are suing for violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, violation of the Rehabiliation Act of 1973, and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and are seeking compensation and damages for those violations including prejudgment interest at the maximum rate, attorneys fees and costs, and other relief deemed appropriate.
Sumner County Schools attorney Todd Presnell released a statement on behalf of the school district,
The Sumner County Board of Education is aware, and disappointed, that this family filed a lawsuit. The Board categorically denies this family’s allegations. Because of the nature of the allegations and out of respect for the privacy of the involved families and students, the Board will not provide specific comments. Instead, the Board is prepared to defend the case and will respond more fully in court.