Sissonville sexual assault civil case echoes Capital incident

By Chris Dickerson | May 1, 2015

CHARLESTON – A family has filed a civil lawsuit against the Kanawha County Board of Education, claiming their daughter, who attends special education classes, was sexually assaulted at Sissonville High School.

The complaint sounds similar to a high-profile incident at another Kanawha County high school earlier this year that resulted in the school principal being charged with failing to report a sexual assault.

The plaintiffs, who are not named in the complaint to protect their identities, filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court against the board.

It says the daughter attended Sissonville Middle School last year. The mother claims she met with administrators of the high school to express concerns about her daughter attending the high school. She was told her daughter would be taken care of at the high school.

So, the daughter began classes at Sissonville High last fall. On Oct. 8, she claims her daughter was sexually assaulted by a male student in the girls’ locker room during school hours.

The daughter reported the sexual assault to an administrator at the school, but the mother claims the administrator did not report the sexual assault to law enforcement. Also, the mother claims the administrator did not inform her or the girl’s father of the assault.

“Because of this sexual assault, the plaintiff … is unable to attend public high school,” the suit claims.

In its response, the school board denies that the student reported the sexual assault to school administrators.

The family claims the daughter has sustained past and future pain and suffering, has been forced to abandon her normal high school education for an alternative program, has suffered lost future earnings and impairment of her earning capacity, has suffered emotional and mental anguish as well as humiliation and embarrassment and other damages.

They seek compensatory damages as well as pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney fees and court costs. They also punitive damages.

The board, in its answer, also says the plaintiffs fail to state a claim or cause of action upon which relief may be granted, so it seeks to have the case dismissed.

The plaintiffs are represented by Mark A. Atkinson and John-Mark Atkinson of Atkinson & Polak PLLC in Charleston. The board is being represented by Julie Meeks Greco of Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe in Charleston. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Carrie A. Webster.

In March, Webster dismissed a misdemeanor charge against former Capital High principal Clinton Giles, who had been accused of not reporting a January sexual assault to authorities.

That charge was based on a section of state law dealing with mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect.

Giles said he followed state law and Kanawha County school policy when the notification was made the day after the assault, within a 48-hour period. Giles said, because of that, there was never any case against him.

Giles retired Feb. 3 after the charge against him was filed.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 15-C-569

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