Freeburg, O'Fallon high schools named in suit alleging sex assault

News-DemocratApril 21, 2014 

The mother of a teen girl who allegedly was sexually assaulted in a high school bathroom at O'Fallon High School during a band competition is suing the school and Freeburg High School, claiming they didn't protect the girl.

The teen girl and the accused perpetrator were both students at Freeburg Community High School Dist. 77 at the time of the alleged assault.

The mother filed the lawsuit on behalf of her daughter, identified only by initials in court documents, on April 8 in St. Clair County Circuit Court. Along with the schools, the lawsuit seeks damages from the teen boy accused of the sexual assault, the boy's parents, a teacher acting as chaperone during the competition and Freeburg High School Principal Benjamin Howes.

Freeburg High School Superintendent Andrew Lehman said school officials have not yet been formally notified of the lawsuit and could not comment until they have reviewed the suit.

Freeburg high school officials knew the teen boy exhibited "violent and aggressive behavior toward fellow students" prior to the regional band competition held April 13, 2013, at O'Fallon Township High School, according to the lawsuit.

O'Fallon Police Department Lt. James Cavins said the department received a report of a sexual assault at O'Fallon high school on April 15, 2013. Detectives thoroughly investigated the alleged assault, Cavins said, and forwarded the results of the investigation to the St. Clair County State's Attorney's office for review. Prosecutors declined to file any charges.

O'Fallon High School Superintendent Darcy Benway said school officials have not been served with any documents regarding the lawsuit.

"The ridiculousness of including OTHS in a lawsuit involving two students from another district speaks for itself," Benway said."It is unfortunate that OTHS resources will have to be used to defend the district being named as a party in this suit."

The lawsuit alleges Freeburg school officials should have protected the girl from the assault by preventing the alleged perpetrator from attending such events without adequate supervision. Freeburg High School sent about 120 students to the competition under the supervision of a teacher.

The suit further alleges school officials placed the girl on home-bound instruction and prohibited her from attending events at the school following the assault. The Freeburg school district has treated the girl "like a perpetrator, rather than a victim of a depraved attack," the lawsuit alleges in court documents.

The parents of the alleged perpetrator are named as defendants in the suit under the state's Parental Responsibility Law, which in general holds parents liable for their children's actions.

The lawsuit alleges Howes, the teacher and O'Fallon high school officials should have protected the girl from the assault.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.