NBAPS facing lawsuit in relation to sexual assault on bus

Six-year-old special education student was the alleged victim

North Branch Area Public Schools is facing a $500,000 lawsuit lodged by the lawyers of a woman who says her then-6-year-old son was sexually assaulted by a middle school student on a district school bus in April of last year.

According to the lawsuit:

On April 10, 2013, the victim, referred to as Jr. Doe, a special education kindergarten student, boarded a bus after he was finished with his schooling for the day.

An employee of the district who worked as an aide escorted him onto the bus. Another special education middle school student, with a known history of being sexually aggressive toward children under the age of 10, was already on the bus, seated toward the back.

The school district was reportedly told prior to 2013 by the middle school student’s guardian that he was to have no unsupervised contact with children under the age of 10 because of his history of inappropriate sexual conduct.

The aide allegedly did not heed this warning and allowed Jr. Doe to sit at the back of the bus with the middle school student while she sat near the front of the bus, conversing with the bus driver.

About 10 minutes after boarding the bus, Jr. Doe was sexually assaulted by the middle school student. The middle school student allegedly performed sexual acts on Jr. Doe while touching himself.

Eventually, the bus driver glanced in the vehicle’s rearview mirror and saw the assault occurring. She stopped the bus, walked to the rear of the vehicle and brought the middle school student to the front of the bus.

On April 16, 2013, the Minnesota Department of Education received a notice from the district detailing the alleged assault, and this prompted an investigation into the reported abuse.

The district received a copy of that report, and the North Branch Police Department investigated and prepared its own reports.

The boy’s mother has filed five claims against the school district, each seeking $100,000 in damages.

NBAPS Community Relations Coordinator Pat Tepoorten said the district is not at liberty to discuss specifics about the lawsuit.

“I’m very limited in what I can say,” he said. “The district is currently reviewing the complaint, and we take all matters of student safety and security very seriously. We don’t comment on pending litigation.”

One of the attorneys for the boy’s mother, John Klassen, said lawsuits in cases of this nature often take awhile to unfold.

“These cases take time to develop, and we had to let various investigations take place prior to initiating a lawsuit,” he said. “Any time minor children are subject to egregious violations of state and federal rights, especially in a sexual abuse case, the damages are severe. And the trauma to children who are subjected to this lasts throughout their lives.”

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