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Pasadena Unified ordered to pay millions to special needs student who was sexually assaulted by classmates

The Pasadena Unified School District has been ordered to pay $26 million to a special needs student who was sexually assaulted by three classmates in 2016.

The unidentified female victim, who was 11 years old at the time, was a student at Focus Point Academy and was enrolled in the “special education program for emotionally disturbed children,” the girl’s attorney said. The school is staffed and operated by the school district.

On May 16, 2017, the girl was left under the supervision of a teacher’s aide, who then left her alone with three male classmates. The boys dragged her outside and behind a building where they held her arms down, removed her clothes and sexually assaulted her, court documents state. The girl was groped and held against a wall while she fought and begged her attackers to stop as they penetrated her with their fingers, as well as a paperclip that left “serious and permanent” injuries.

At one point during the attack, one of the boys told the victim “it’s raping time,” according to the complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The girl’s attorney said the school district, meanwhile, denied that the attack happened and argued that the school district had no financial obligation to the girl, who was eventually institutionalized.

The complaint alleged that the school was understaffed and employees were inadequately trained to handle the large number of students. The suit also alleges that faculty was aware that the girl’s assailants had previous violent outbursts and were known to be dangerous to other students.

On Aug. 23, a jury found that the school district was in fact negligent, which was a substantial factor in the girl’s assault.

Judge Patrick T. Madden announced the jury’s decision, which awarded the girl $12.5 million for her past pain and suffering and $13.5 million for any future mental suffering, emotional distress, anxiety or other trauma from the attack.

“This verdict demonstrates that all children, regardless of their disabilities, deserve to be protected,” said David Rudorfer, one of the girl’s trial attorneys.

KTLA reached out to the Pasadena Unified School District regarding the matter and was provided the following statement:

“It is not appropriate to comment on pending litigation.” 

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