An emotionally disabled 9-year-old boy was repeatedly harassed and then sexually assaulted last year by an older classmate at his North Miami school, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Miami Dade School Board.
The suit states that the two students were enrolled in the same class in the Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities program at Benjamin Franklin K-8 Center during the beginning of the current school year. Neither boy is named in the complaint.
In September, the older student, 12, began grabbing the younger boy’s buttocks at school and calling him his girlfriend, despite the boy’s objections, the suit states. The harassment continued even after the younger boy repeatedly complained to his teacher and assistant principal and after the school’s principal became aware of the issue, according to the suit.
In December, the suit states, the 9-year-old, who has ADHD, was excused from class to receive an award in the school’s music room. When he was walking back to class, the older boy followed the student into a restroom and allegedly grabbed his buttocks, fondled his penis and tried to perform oral sex.
“When a school knows students are being sexually harassed they have a duty to protect these students and stop it,” said Jeff Herman, a prominent sex abuse attorney representing the 9-year-old boy and his mother. “He’s an emotionally disabled child to begin with. Being sexually assaulted has made his life more difficult.”
School District spokesman John Schuster said the district had not yet been served with the lawsuit and doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Herman said the boy’s mother filed a police report after the alleged assault, but could not say if the incident was still under investigation. He said the older boy was eventually suspended and no longer attends the school, but he added, the school’s employees should have been more proactive.
The family is seeking undisclosed damages.
In a statement released by Herman, the boy’s mother said she was told her son would be “under constant supervision” when she enrolled him at the school. She said her son, who still attends the K-8 Center, no longer wants to go to school and is receiving therapy.
“I feel like the school system has failed me,” she said. “He went to his teachers for protection, but when they continued to do nothing, he felt like nobody cared.”
Herman, a Boca Raton attorney who has handled more than 100 sex abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami, also filed suit this week against the Palm Beach County School Board. In that case, the parents of a 6-year-old girl allege she was molested by classmates at an elementary school west of Boca Raton.