Mission CISD will pay $20,000 to settle federal lawsuit

The Mission Consolidated Independent School District will pay $20,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former student who claims she was sexually assaulted by a classmate.
The former student — a woman with a “severe disability,” according to court records, which identify her by the pseudonym “Jane Doe” — and her mother filed the lawsuit in 2017. After more than two years of litigation, attorneys for Mission CISD and Jane Doe negotiated the $20,000 settlement.

“Plaintiffs agree that this matter shall remain confidential,” according to a draft copy of the settlement agreement filed in federal court. “If Plaintiffs are asked about this matter, Plaintiffs shall state only that the matter has been amicably resolved.”

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane approved the settlement agreement on Nov. 20.

Jane Doe, who attended Veterans Memorial High School in Mission, required constant supervision because of her physical and intellectual conditions.

“She can only ambulate by the use of a wheelchair with assistance. She has poor gross motor skills and poor fine motor skills,” according to the lawsuit. “She is unable to sit erect in her wheelchair without a physical support apparatus and has minimal strength in her upper extremities.”

In a joint motion, attorneys for Jane Doe and Mission CISD said that she had a “cognitive level of kindergarten or first grade.”

As a result, Mission CISD provided her with special education services, according to the lawsuit. A document called an “Individual Education Plan” dictated the services Jane Doe would receive.

“The IEP stated that JANE DOE, as to personal care services, requires monitoring while performing personal tasks, needs physical assistance in performing personal tasks, needs to be supervised and redirected to facilitate her safety and the safety of others, and needs a program that provides constant supervision throughout the day,” according to the lawsuit.

In November 2015, though, Mission CISD employees left Jane Doe and a 16-year-old boy, who the lawsuit describes as a “special needs student,” alone in a gym. The boy sexually assaulted her.

“The sexual contact by the male student was unwanted by JANE DOE, who did not comprehend the nature of these acts,” according to the lawsuit. “She did not consent to the sexual contact, and in any event, she did not have the capacity to consent to sexual contact due to her age as well as her physical and mental limitations.”

After she returned from the gym, a Mission CISD employee noticed a hickey on Jane Doe’s neck.

Mission CISD conducted an investigation, which revealed the 16-year-old boy had sexually assaulted Jane Doe on three separate occasions, according to the lawsuit. All three sexual assaults were recorded by surveillance cameras in the high school gym.

Jane Doe and her mother filed a lawsuit against Mission CISD. They claimed Mission CISD failed to follow her individual education plan, which violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and resulted in her sexual assault.

The lawsuit also claimed Mission CISD knew the 16-year-old boy had sexually harassed another female student and failed to properly address the situation.

When the other female student reported what happened, a school district administrator told her to “stay away from boys and keep her hands to her self (sic),” according to the lawsuit.

Mission CISD asked a judge to dismiss the case.

“There are allegations that the District or its personnel were negligent in failing to train employees on the implementation of IEP accommodations, failing to know the contents of Doe’s IEP, and failing to consistently implement the accommodations mandated, however, those factual claims do not constitute affirmative acts of knowing discrimination, as required by the ADA,” according to a motion filed by Mission CISD. “The act of discrimination, if there was one at all, came in the form of the alleged assault, claimed to have been perpetrated by a private party, not a school district employee. As discussed above, Plaintiff has not alleged any facts that would allow the Court to conclude that MCISD should be responsible for alleged assault that occurred. There are no facts asserted to support the conclusion that the District knew Doe had been assaulted by the student previously or that the District turned a blind eye to known assaults. Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action for her claim under the ADA, and that claim should be dismissed.”

Crane granted the motion to dismiss in May. Jane Doe appealed.

Before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could review the case, attorneys for Jane Doe and Mission CISD settled the lawsuit.

Jane Doe and her attorneys, who spent nearly $44,000 litigating the case, agreed to split the $20,000 settlement.

This article originally appeared in the Friday Nov. 29, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

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