The Rainier School District is facing a lawsuit that claims a female student was bullied by another child over the course of several years and that the bullying included sexual assault.
The lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court in January by the girl’s parents, who are represented by Tacoma law firm Rush, Hannula, Harkins & Kyler. A complaint filed in court alleges that the school district didn’t do enough to protect the student from the bullying and that school administrators discouraged her from reporting the incidents.
“Reporting physical, sexual and verbal assault and harassment to adults and having the reports ignored or rejected was humiliating and degrading for the plaintiffs,” the complaint reads.
In an email sent to The Olympian on Friday, Rainier School District Superintendent Tim Garchow wrote that the district has forwarded the lawsuit to an attorney and that the claims are “without merit.”
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“The Rainier School District has always provided and will continue to provide all of our students with a safe educational environment. The district does not tolerate harassment or bullying of any of our students and staff,” he wrote.
Attorney Daniel Kyler, who is representing the girl’s parents, did not return The Olympian’s calls for comment Friday.
The complaint alleges that the student was bullied for years by another girl and that the bullying culminated in a sexual assault at Rainier Middle School.
The complaint alleges the following:
In 2011, the family moved to Rainier and the plaintiffs’ daughter began attending Rainier Elementary School as a fifth-grader. On her first day of school, she encountered a girl assaulting another student on the school bus. When the daughter told her to stop, the girl began attacking her.
The daughter and her mother reported the assault to the principal.
The girl continued physically assaulting the plaintiffs’ daughter throughout the school year, and the altercations continued when the girls entered Rainier Middle School the following year. At that point, the girl began bullying the plaintiff’s daughter verbally, too.
She allegedly told their classmates that the plaintiffs’ daughter had vaginal warts and that she had been sexually involved with 21-year-old men.
In March 2013, the plaintiffs’ daughter was standing in a common area at Rainier Middle School when she was approached by the girl. The girl allegedly put her hand down the daughter’s pants and attempted to penetrate her both vaginally and anally.
The daughter called her mother to report the assault, and the mother reported it to school administrators. The mother was told that it wasn’t necessary to notify the police and that it was unlikely that the other girl would be expelled. Both the girl and the plaintiffs’ daughter were suspended from school during the investigation.
Both girls were allowed to return to school, and during the following school year they were placed in the same classes. The parents called the school to complain, and they were told that their daughter would have to change her classes.
In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the school district didn’t do enough to protect their daughter both before and after the sexual assault.
“Administrators and others in the district had received multiple reports of, had actual knowledge of, and were aware of the continuous and pervasive course of physical, sexual, verbal and emotional assault of (the daughter) by (the girl) but they unreasonably and deliberately failed to take any steps reasonably calculated to end it,” the complaint reads.
The girl eventually transferred to another school after the plaintiffs filed for a sexual assault protection order in Thurston County Superior Court.
The original protection order was issued March 8, 2013. It prevented the girl from coming within 500 feet of the plaintiffs’ home and prohibited the girl from being placed in the same classes as the plaintiffs’ daughter.
A new order was issued Aug. 9, 2013. It prohibited the girl from coming within 500 feet of the daughter’s school and home. It also prohibited her from having any contact with the daughter — through personal contact, phone calls, emails, social media, etc.
However, the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office was unable to file criminal charges against the girl, according to court documents.
In a letter to the family, Deputy Prosecutor Megan Winder wrote the following:
“After much work, including in-person victim interviews, my office is unable to criminally charge (the girl) for her actions against your daughter.”
The recently-filed court case was assigned to Judge Erik Price. No trial date has been set.