Parents Sue Indiana School, Alleging Negligence for Failure to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Child by Other Students

The parents of an eight year-old child have filed suit against the child’s school, alleging negligence and violations of their child’s statutory and constitutional rights. Doe v. Ball State University, et al, No. 18C01-1208-PL (Circuit Court No. 1, Delaware County, Ind., Sept. 28, 2012), removed to No. 1:12-cv-01464 (S.D. Ind., Oct. 10, 2012). The suit claims that the school negligently failed to supervise its students, allowing several of the child’s classmates to commit repeated acts of sexual abuse against him. The parents claim the school had knowledge of the abuse, but failed to intervene or notify them. The suit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

The plaintiffs, identified in court papers as John and Jane Doe, enrolled their child, identified as Junior Doe, at Burris Laboratory School in Muncie, Indiana. Burris is a K-12 school operated by Ball State University. Junior Doe was eight years old and in the second grade at Burris in the fall semester of 2011. His parents received a telephone call from another student’s parent on December 5, 2011, informing them that Junior had been the victim of sexual abuse and harassment at the school.

The Does learned several days later, according to their complaint, that teachers and administrators at Burris knew of the abuse but did not inform them. At this time, the school told them about the extent of the abuse, which allegedly occurred in the restrooms, library, and one or more classrooms at the school. About four other second-grade boys allegedly touched Junior inappropriately in intimate areas and forced him to engage in other forms of sexual conduct. Students had largely unsupervised and unrestricted access to the restrooms, library, classrooms, and computer equipment. The Does allege that the students were imitating acts they saw in pornographic images and videos viewed on school computers and iPads. They claim that other students approached their teacher to report the abuse, but the teacher allegedly “told the students to sit down and stop ‘tattling'” on others. Complaint at 5.

The Does filed suit in Circuit Court No. 1 in Delaware County, Indiana on September 28, 2012. They named Burris, Ball State, the Ball State Board of Trustees, and Junior’s teacher as defendants, asserting causes of action for negligence, Title IX violations, and Fourteenth Amendment due process violations. The defendants removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on October 10, 2012, citing that court’s subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ constitutional claims.

The negligence claim is of particular interest to us as personal injury attorneys. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants breached multiple duties of care owed to Junior, and that Junior suffered substantial damages as a result. This includes numerous instances of failure to supervise Junior and the other students, enabling the students to sexually abuse Junior, as well as failure to maintain appropriate supervision policies or to train faculty and staff. They also allege negligence in failing to prevent children accessing sexually explicit materials on school computers. Finally, they allege that the defendants negligently failed to investigate allegations of abuse, including one student’s prior abusive behavior.

The personal injury lawyers at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse protect the right of people in Indiana who have suffered injuries caused by the negligent or illegal acts of others, helping them to obtain compensation for their damages. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our lawyers, contact us today online or at (888) 532-7766.

Web Resources:

Complaint for Damages (PDF file), Cause No. 18C01-1208-PL, Doe v. Ball State University, et al, Circuit Court No. 1, Delaware County, Indiana, September 28, 2012
Petition for Removal (PDF file), Cause No. 1:12-cv-01464, Doe v. Ball State University, et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, October 10, 2012
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