SPS sued by mother of 6-year-old girl who alleges sexual assaults at school

A mother has sued Springfield Public Schools alleging her 6-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by students at Pleasant View Elementary and the district did not do enough to stop it.

In the lawsuit filed March 8, the mother alleged the district displayed "deliberate indifference" to the assaults, which were promptly reported to school officials in May and November of 2021.

Originally filed in Greene County, the lawsuit was moved Monday to federal court.

The suit alleges the girl was sitting next to a male student in a computer class in May 2021 when he put his hands between her legs, according to the suit.

The girl reportedly notified her teacher, who took her to the principal's office. The suit said the girl was asked to give a statement and then sent back to class but no action was taken to make sure the assault did not occur again.

The suit alleged the school did not suspend, discipline or separate the male student from the girl.

Following the incident, the girl told her mother, who contacted the school.

The mother said she was told to keep her daughter home if she didn't want to have any interaction with the male student, according to the suit.

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The suit alleges the girl was standing in line to go to lunch with her class in November 2021 when a different male student, a relative of the boy from the May incident, also put his hands between the girl's legs.

The girl reported the incident to the school counselor.

The mother was told a parent or guardian of the male student planned to handle the disciplinary action, not the school, according to the suit.

Stephen Hall, chief communications officer, said the district followed its policies in this situation.

"We take any allegation of assault with the utmost seriousness, as the safety and well-being of our students is paramount. SPS follows policies and procedures when concerns regarding the well-being of students are brought to our attention, including the placement of a hotline call to the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services," Hall said in response to a request for comment.

"In this circumstance, appropriate policies and protocols were followed."

In the statement, Hall added that "outside of the legal process, it is not appropriate for SPS to provide specifics regarding the allegations, or any actions that may have resulted from the related investigation, due to confidentiality requirements outlined by law."

It is the News-Leader's policy not to name the alleged victims of sexual assault or their family members if doing so would identify the victim.

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Alleging the school failed to take steps to protect her daughter, the mother withdrew the girl from Pleasant View and enrolled her in a different school.

The suit alleged the girl did not have the physical or mental capacity to consent or escape from the male students during the incidents.

The mother, represented by Roger Johnson and Anna Pace of the Joplin law firm Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci, is asking for a jury trial and damages from the incident. The district is represented by the law firm, Mickes O'Toole.

Claudette Riley covers education for the News-Leader. Email tips and story ideas to criley@news-leader.com.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Mother sues SPS alleging 6-year-old girl sexually assaulted at school