Clovis Unified 'ignored warning signs', opened up special needs girl to sexual attacks

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new lawsuit claims Clovis Unified mishandled a sexual attack on a special needs teenager and opened her up for a second attack on the same campus.

"Everything about this response was improper," said the attorney for the girl's family, Omar Qureshi, who says administrators ignored warning signs and caused significant damage.

In four years on the Clovis East campus, a girl with an intellectual disability, speech disorder, and autism rarely ventured outside of her special ed classroom without an adult.

Her family's lawsuit against Clovis Unified says the district knew she was vulnerable.

"In school documents, they said she needs constant supervision," Qureshi said. "Her teacher earlier said this is a girl, the teacher literally said she's vulnerable to people who might take advantage of her for sex."

It happened first in November 2018.

Left unsupervised, another student forced the girl into the bushes between classrooms to engage in sexual activity, according to the complaint.

Her attorney says when she emerged disoriented and partially nude, a special ed administrator determined it was consensual without a full investigation.

She was suspended for five days and the school didn't do anything to keep her separated from the boy who did it.

So 14 months later, he forced himself on her again.

"Had Clovis (Unified) just investigated the first incident with my client, they might've been able to protect her in the future," Qureshi said. "Had they owned up to a mistake, then they might've been able to protect all other students."

Qureshi says the girl still screams herself awake at night and he blames district leadership for looking away from problems.

A district spokesperson told Action News she couldn't comment on active litigation, but said "as a school district, we take seriously any allegations that there is inadequate supervision of our students."

Legal analyst Ralph Torres tells me the school district will have to argue they did everything reasonable to protect the girl.

But he adds that as soon as administrators know there's a risk, they're responsible. So what they documented about the girl could make them more likely to want to settle the case out of court.

"It may never see a courtroom and that may be a good thing," Torres said. "You don't want to put a person of that limited ability on the stand to traumatize once again."

The two sides are scheduled to meet in court for the first time in March.
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