RIVERTON — In the lawsuit against Fremont County School District Number 14, a jury trial is set tentatively for Dec. 12, 2022, under U.S. District Court Judge Nancy D Freudenthal.
A family on the Wind River Indian Reservation had alleged that the superintendent, school, and bus staff did not react properly to sexual abuse on a school bus. The school district and other defendants denied wrongdoing in their response to the allegations on Nov. 15.
The plaintiffs are a 9-year-old girl, who was 7 at the time of the events, and the girl’s mother. Listed defendants include the Wyoming Indian school district, its superintendent Owen St. Clair, principal Scott Morrow, an anonymous female bus garage supervisor, another anonymous female bus driver (referred to in the suit as “Doe Bus Garage Supervisor” and “Doe Bus Driver”) and an anonymous female teacher at the school.
According to the complaint filed in the Wyoming federal court district on Sept. 17, a 17- year-old high school boy with developmental disabilities including autism and depression was prosecuted and sentenced as a juvenile for sexually abusing the 7-year-old girl.
Defendants wrote that the school district and St. Clair did not put in place systems for detecting, reporting, or investigating suspected sexual harassment incidents. The suit also posits that the bus garage supervisor used high school students to block grade school children from moving around on buses – which “placed the abuser, a high school student predator with developmental disabilities, in position to victimize (the child)” although he had a known “sexual harassment and sexual abuse history.”
The girl and the older boy both rode the bus daily on the same route. Plaintiffs wrote that the teen would let the girl play games on his phone so she’d sit next to him, and “as time progressed,” he would ask for sexual favors in exchange for screen time on his devices.
After he committed what the suit calls “inappropriate sexual touching,” the girl told him to stop.
Documents state that he stopped for a time, then began again and is alleged to have “threatened her with harm to avoid detection.”
These episodes, the plaintiffs wrote, caused the girl “physical harm and pain,” and “severe emotional distress, trauma, embarrassment, and constant anxiety that abuser would harm her.”
The suit claims that school teachers and staff, and the defendants knew about the sexual abuse, but the girl’s parents and law enforcement were “never informed” and the teen was allowed to sit with the girl although the bus driver knew he was “infatuated” with her.
The girl has since exhibited post traumatic stress disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, anxiety, stress, and other “devastating” symptoms warranting compensation along with other resultant impediments, the complaint states.
Its writers accused school staff of failing to investigate or react properly to known sexual abuse tendencies by the teen “or take actions required by (federal funding program) Title IX to remedy the hostile school environment and harassment prior to the sexual assault.”
Freudenthal ruled on Jan. 20 that she found the “settlement possibilities of this case to be fair,” and that parties should contact the court if interested in court-assisted settlement or mediation.