Ripley Middle School

RIPLEY - A Jackson County woman is accusing school officials of knowing about repeated sexual assaults on her teenage daughter by another student, but doing nothing about it.

On March 4, Catherine Fields filed a lawsuit against the Jackson Board of Education in Jackson Circuit Court. In the complaint filed with the assistance of Brent K. Kesner, with the Charleston law firm of Kesner, Kesner and Bramble, Fields alleges teachers and administrators at Ripley Middle School failed to act on her daughter's allegations that in 2007 she was sexually assaulted on at least two occasions by a fellow student.

According to court records, Fields, a resident of Gay, and her husband, Auvil, are the adoptive parents of R.F. Now 15-years-old, R.F. was adopted by the Fields when she was 3-years-old after living in foster care for two years.

Records show R.F. was born in Spaulding County, Ga., and, before she was a year old, removed from the home of her biological parents "due to gross neglect." Prior to her adoption by the Fields', R.F. in 1996 was placed in the custody of her paternal grandmother who also is a resident of Jackson County.

Though records are not specific, R.F. was diagnosed by both officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services, and doctors to be "severely and mentally impaired." Because of her impairment, R.F. has been prescribed an individual educational program, or IEP, by school officials.

According to Fields' suit, R.F., when she was 13-years-old, was "sexually assaulted and inappropriately touched by another fellow minor student," sometime in March or April 2007. The alleged attacker is only identified as a boy.

However, Fields' alleges that the initial attack on R.F. "occurred in the hallway of Ripley Middle School, during a period when no teacher and/or other employee…was present." Being in the hallway unsupervised was not in accordance with R.F.'s IEP.

Despite school officials learning of the attack shortly after it occurred, Fields alleges she was never notified about it. Also, she maintains that school officials "advised R.F. not to tell anyone."

Furthermore, sometime after the first one, R.F. was again assaulted by the same student while unsupervised. Records are unclear as to when the second attack took place, and when Fields found out about both attacks, and the alleged cover-up.

In her suit, Fields makes claims against the Board for negligence and constitutional violations.

Specifically, Fields alleges the Board was negligent in "failing to supervise its employees and the students at Ripley Middle School…especially those mentally impaired students like R.F." This failure was a direct result of "teacher and/or aide absenteeism."

Fields further alleges negligence by the Board in "Failing to adequately supervise, reprimand, or otherwise address the Unnamed Minor when it first learned of the sexual assaults perpetrated against R.F."

Also, Fields alleges the Board violated R.F's due process and equal protection rights under the state Constitution when it "placed [her] in danger of her physical and emotional well-being from herself and other students."

As a result of the attacks, Fields alleges her daughter has "sustained severe, permanent personal injuries, including, but not limited to, physical and psychological injuries, pain, suffering, humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, annoyance and inconvenience." Because of that, R.F. "has incurred medical expenses, which are of a permanent and continuing nature."

Fields is asking for unspecified damages, interest and costs.

The case has been assigned to Judge Thomas C. Evans III.

Jackson Circuit Court Case number: 09-C-27

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