Harrison County

Lawsuit: Pass High failed to protect student from sexual assault

A lawsuit filed in Circuit Court says a 15-year-old was sexually assaulted at Pass Christian High School.
A lawsuit filed in Circuit Court says a 15-year-old was sexually assaulted at Pass Christian High School.

Parents of a 15-year-old student at Pass Christian High School say she was the one punished after a male student sexually assaulted her.

The parents seek unspecified damages in a civil lawsuit recently filed in Circuit Court. The lawsuit does not name any of the minor students. The Pass Christian Police Department verified that a case involving the incident is pending in Youth Court, where records are confidential.

The lawsuit accuses the school and district of failing to follow its own polices and to protect the female student, despite notice of previous incidents when supervision or security was lacking. The Sun Herald, which does not identify victims of sexual assault, has omitted the parents’ names to protect the identify of the female student.

The girl was allegedly assaulted April 20, 2015, as an afternoon rehearsal for an upcoming performance wound down. The teacher, Natalie Skinner, said she needed to leave the gymnasium for a sporting event nearby, according to the lawsuit.

The girl was thrown into a locker room, where two boys held the door while a third sexually assaulted her, the lawsuit says. The boys allegedly attempted to corner the girl again on April 23, 2015, but she got away.

The next day, the lawsuit says, the girl told a school counselor, identified only as Dr. Bailey, about the assault and subsequent confrontation. Instead of contacting the police, the lawsuit says, the school called the girl’s father, who then filed a police report and took his daughter to the hospital for a medical exam at the request of police.

The lawsuit also says police attempted to retrieve videotape from the campus, but the school refused to provide video without a warrant and then said it had been taped over.

For her own safety, the school said, the girl spent the rest of the school year in the principal’s office. When this school year started, the lawsuit says, her alleged attacker was at an alternative school for unknown reasons. When the boy returned to school, the girl’s father says he was informed only after the male student was already on campus.

For her own safety, the parents say, their daughter now attends private school.

The parents are asking a judge to award them and their daughter compensation for pain and suffering, deprivation of rights and due process, and the costs of private school and medical care. The state Department of Education also is named as a defendant.

“The trauma associated with these events continues to affect the family to this day,” the lawsuit says, “despite intervention by health-care professionals.”

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99