Pasco mom sues school district for negligence

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldOctober 29, 2011 

PASCO -- A Pasco mother who claims her child was sexually assaulted twice on the playground at James McGee Elementary School is suing the school district for its alleged negligence and failure to supervise students and staff.

The lawsuit against the Pasco School District was filed Friday in Franklin County Superior Court.

The child was 7 and in first grade when allegedly assaulted by other students on two separate occasions in February 2010. School playground supervisors were on duty at the time of both incidents and should have seen it, yet either didn't notice or did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit names the mother and child by their initials, but the Herald isn't using those under the newspaper's policy not to identify people who report being sexually assaulted.

The child, whose gender is not specified in the civil complaint, has been appointed a litigation guardian ad litem, Richard L. Mathieu.

"Every child deserves a school environment where they feel safe and protected by those entrusted with their care," said Megan L. Chang, a Kennewick attorney with Tamaki Law representing the mother. "Our client is pursuing this case to prevent this violation of her child's safety and trust from happening to other children."

It was not clear Friday if there had been a criminal investigation by Pasco police into the sexual assault allegations at the North Horizon Drive school, or if the child is still a student there.

The Pasco School District received a notice-of-claim regarding an alleged student-on-student assault at McGee in 2010, but wasn't aware of a pending lawsuit arising from the allegations until calls Friday from reporters, said spokeswoman Leslee Caul.

The district had not yet been served with a complaint or a courtesy copy, she said.

"The safety of students is of critical concern to the district," Caul said in a written statement. "As this matter involves apparent pending litigation and the district has not received any further details in the complaint, the district cannot offer any further comment at this time."

According to the complaint, the first incident was Feb. 19, 2010, on the playground during recess. The alleged assailant was another student, and other students reportedly watched.

Then on Feb. 22, the child was sexually assaulted and molested by several students during recess, the lawsuit states. And again other students saw it happen, but employees of the school district didn't report seeing it and did not stop it, the lawsuit states.

The school district "had a duty to exercise ordinary care, including a duty to ensure the safety of its students on its playgrounds, supervise the activities of students on its playgrounds, and develop, implement and enforce policies and procedures to protect the safety of its students on playgrounds," the complaint cites.

By law, the mother can't specify a damage amount. The lawsuit only asks for judgments against the school district "in an amount that will fairly compensate" the mother and child "for all damages sustained," along with reasonable attorney fees and costs.

* Staff writer Jacques Von Lunen contributed to this report.

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