Sexual abuse of special needs students, or children with disabilities, is a serious problem.
According to a study published in 2012 in
The Lancet, children with disabilities face a risk of being sexually abused that
is roughly three times greater than the risk faced by children without
disabilities. If the child has a mental or intellectual disability, the
risk is 4.6 times greater than a child without a disability.
In many cases, the predator is someone the child knows, such as a teacher
or a fellow student.
Unfortunately, mishandling of these cases by those who have a duty to protect
the health and safety of disabled children may be an even bigger issue.
Report: Special Needs Student Used in Plan to Catch Suspected Predator
A horrific story about the alleged rape of a school girl offered as "bait"
to a suspected sexual predator in Alabama serves as an extreme case of
CNN reports that educators at a Huntsville-area school talked a 14-year-old
girl with special needs into agreeing to have sex with a boy as a means
of catching him in the act, which would allow them to discipline him.
The teacher's aide who hatched the plan had previously told the middle
school's principal that the boy had "repeatedly tried to convince
girls to have sex with him in the boys' bathroom on the special needs
students' corridor' and had actually had sex with one student,
CNN reports, quoting a brief filed by the Department of Justice and the
U.S. Department of Education to support a lawsuit the girl's family
After the boy approached the girl he is accused of eventually molesting,
the teacher's aide suggested the plan to a vice principal, who "did
not respond with any advice or directive," according to the brief.
Unfortunately, with no wiser adult intervening, the girl agreed to the
plan and told the boy she would meet him for sex. However, the boy took
her to a different restroom, where there was no one to stop him from allegedly
raping her, according to the lawsuit.
The attorney who represents the girl and her father describes the child
as "not physically or mentally handicapped, although she does qualify
for special education classes." The alleged attack "has essentially
devastated her life," the attorney added.
The boy, who had been involved in 15 proven incidents of violent or sex-related
misconduct before the alleged rape, claims that he only kissed her. However,
CNN reports, "medical personnel found evidence of trauma 'consistent
with [the girl] being sodomized.'"
The school's vice principal has stated that the girl was responsible
for herself once she entered the bathroom, according to a brief accompanying
the lawsuit. Another vice principal stated that she did not know "whether
[the girl] had consented to the assault," according to the brief.
Because the child was uncommunicative after the incident, the Madison County
district attorney did not pursue a criminal case, CNN reports.
The girl's father filed a lawsuit in federal court in October 2010
against the boy, three administrators, the teacher's aide and the
Madison County School Board. The case currently is being reviewed by the
Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Taking Action to Protect Children with Disabilities
When those who are charged with ensuring the safety of special needs students
fail to live up to their duty and allow the children to be harmed - such
as in cases of sexual abuse - they should be held fully accountable.
The Maher Law Firm is dedicated to seeking justice for special needs students
and their families. If your child has been harmed due to the negligent
or reckless acts of a school administrator, teacher or staff member, please
contact us to learn more about your legal rights.