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Lawsuit alleges Colo. Springs elementary school failed to protect student from sexual assault


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A federal lawsuit filed on January 24 alleges an Academy District 20 elementary school failed to protect a minor girl from becoming a victim of a sexual assault on school grounds back in 2022.

The school at the center of the lawsuit, Woodmen-Roberts Elementary School, is accused of knowing that a minor boy had a "reputation of touching other students non-consensually," the lawsuit says, yet failed to take steps to protect a minor girl who was groped by this boy on January 25, 2022.

The lawsuit says the minor boy and girl were in the same lunch line on this day, and the boy moved up in the line and grabbed the girl from behind, touching her inappropriately, the lawsuit alleges.

Attorneys for the girl's parents claim a single lunch monitor failed to step in and stop the assault from taking place.

"It was an aide that was on her phone and was not paying attention as the kids were lining up and certainly not overseeing or supervising what this perpetrator was doing as he was making his way through the lunch line," Melissa Rueschhoff, attorney for the victim's parents, said.

The lawsuit says the victim reported the assault to her teacher, who then alerted the principal, vice-principal, and counselor of what took place.

In addition to the claim of failing to prevent the assault from happening, Rueschhoff says the school and Academy District 20 did not properly follow Title IX requirements, which mandate the school alert the parents of the sexual assault immediately.

The lawsuit claims the victim's parents were not notified of the incident until over 24 hours later, on the afternoon of January 26, 2022.

"The parents got an email message that an incident had happened at school. They didn't call them. They didn't ask them to come in and pick her up," Rueschhoff said.

Rueschhoff says the victim came home from school the day of the assault completely distraught. She called it the "worst day of her life," according to Rueschhoff.

At the parent's request, Rueschhoff says the school called the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) to investigate the act, which was caught on surveillance cameras at the school.

The lawsuit alleges the minor boy was later arrested and charged with two counts of unlawful sexual contact. CSPD confirmed to KRDO13 Investigates that they did charge the boy.

"They are a public entity that does receive federal funding. They're required to follow Title IX and their own internal policies and procedures," Rueschhoff said. "It seemed as if the principal, vice principal, and counselor did not. It's almost as if they weren't aware that there were Title IX policies and procedures to follow."

Rueschhoff says the impacts of this sexual assault on the minor victim have been profound. She says the once outgoing and personable young girl has become "isolated, almost reclusive," according to Rueschhoff.

"She had always dressed preppy, as it was termed, and she started wearing oversized, baggy sweatshirts, and baggy sweatpants. At the same time, just for the very exact reason that we have victim rights bills, she was shamed and felt that she had this stigma attached to her," Rueschhoff said.

KRDO13 Investigates asked Academy District 20 and the school administration at Woodmen-Roberts Elementary School for an interview about the allegations in the lawsuit. Academy District 20 declined. Instead, they sent the following statement:

Safety in our schools is paramount. Academy District 20’s foremost priority is to prevent and remedy inappropriate conduct in our schools, thereby maintaining a safe and conducive learning environment for everyone.

The district takes reports of this nature extremely seriously. Consistent with district policy and procedures, the district takes appropriate actions to investigate and address any report, terminate unwelcome behavior, ensure it does not recur, and prevent retaliation at any school promptly and impartially. 

While we appreciate your interest in this particular matter, it would be inappropriate for the district to comment on pending litigation. We are committed to maintaining the integrity of the legal process and respectfully decline to provide further comment. Thank you for your understanding.

Krystal Story, Academy District 20 Media & Public Relations Manager

"It's incumbent upon us to make sure we send our kids to school, especially a public school that is funded by the state and the federal government, that they can they can feel safe and secure and not be subjected to abuse or assault during their time there," Rueschhoff said. "Then if something does happen like this they know the adults in that place are taking care of them, and that didn't happen here."

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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