Parents sue Seattle-area school district over sexual and physical abuse of 5-year-old kindergartener on school bus

The boy then sexually and physically abuses [the girl] for thirty-six minutes” as the girl can be seen “crying and shaking her head no repeatedly.”

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
The parents of a 5-year-old kindergartner with special needs have sued a Washington school district after video footage showed the child being “sexually and physically abused” by a fifth-grade student on a school bus, according to a new report.

The complaint filed on April 1 in Mason County Superior Court stated that the child, who attended kindergarten in the North Mason School District, has developmental and speech delays and was provided door-to-door transportation by the district in a small bus for special education students.

On Sept. 13, the district modified its transportation plan so that younger children began riding the bus with older children, but the kindergartner’s parents “were concerned about her riding on the bus with older children given her age, speech delays, and the number of children on the bus.”

When the mother greeted her daughter on Sept. 22 after the girl took the larger bus home, the child was crying, “distressed and acting out of character,” and the bus driver allegedly “brushed off” the child’s anxiety.

The mother called the school district and requested video footage from the bus, however, “the district did not immediately provide the footage, nor a response.”

On September 26, 2023, the mother was called to the school for an emergency meeting and was informed by the district that the footage showed the child being sexually and physically abused by a 5th-grade boy on the bus.

According to the complaint filed by lead attorney Amanda Searle with Connelly Law Offices in Tacoma, “The footage showed the 5th-grade boy was told to sit next to [the girl] by the bus driver. The boy then sexually and physically abuses [the girl] for thirty-six minutes” as the girl can be seen “crying and shaking her head no repeatedly.”

“The district was — in all circumstances — deliberately indifferent to the sexual abuse and physical abuse of [the child].”

The child’s parents have accused the school district of negligently hiring, training, and supervising employees, failing to protect the girl from a student “with known behavioral issues,” and are seeking damages for negligence and discrimination.

According to the complaint, “The district created a hostile environment for [the child] in ways including, but not limited to, placing her on a regular school bus given her age and disability, placing a 5th grader next to her with a history of behavioral issues, failing to supervise either the 5th grader or [the child] and allowing the abuse of [the child] by failing to intervene when she cried and yelled for help.”

North Mason School District Superintendent Dana Rosenbach said in a statement to the Shelton-Mason County Journal, “The health, safety, and welfare of students is always the paramount concern of North Mason School District. Any harm or injury to a student is therefore always troubling to us. We are aware of the pending lawsuit, which is being defended by counsel appointed by North Mason School District’s insurer. We have been instructed by counsel not to provide any further comment on the pending litigation.”

In response to the story, State Republican Representative Travis Couture posted on X, “This story is horrifying and sickens me to my core. Every child should be safe at school, especially our little special needs students. My youngest is one of those special ed children in this school district. I can’t imagine the horror this precious little girl went through and it breaks my heart to pieces.”
He added, “I will not tolerate the abuse of children in our schools, not ever! I hope justice is served, and as more information comes to light I’ll be paying special attention to the details to see if I can make legislative changes to promote safety and accountability in our schools.”
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