Suit accuses officials of enabling rape at Fayette high school

By Lawrence Smith | Oct 6, 2011

CHARLESTON – A Fayette County couple is accusing school officials of not doing enough to protect their daughter from becoming a rape victim.

The Fayette County Board of Education is named as co-defendant in eight-count civil rights suit filed by Stephen and Sharon Endicott in U.S. District Court. In their complaint filed Sept. 30, Stephen, 60, and Sharon, 58, of Scarbro, allege the staff at the now-closed Mount Hope High School failed to stop fellow students from sexually assaulting their daughter, 13, last year after school.

According to the suit, the Endicott's daughter, who is only identified in court records by her initials, B.E., remained after school on Nov. 12 to obtain uniforms for the cheerleading squad. Because the team's coach, Linda Nevi, "took an inordinate amount of time assembling the uniforms," B.E. missed her bus ride home.

After missing the bus, B.E., who did not have a cell phone with her, went to the school's office to call her parents. The suit alleges she was denied permission to use the phone.

Immediately, B.E. went to the school's gym and found a friend, who is identified in court records by his initials D.H., who had a cell phone. According to the suit, B.E. said she would be riding home with D.H.'s parents when they picked him up from basketball practice.

After concluding the call, B.E. went to wait in the office, but found it locked. She later returned to the gym, but was informed by Bo Morrison, the boy's basketball coach, she could not be in there during practice.

Shortly after leaving the gym, B.E. alleges she was confronted by an unspecified number of male students who were at least 16-years-old. They then forced her into "a room commonly used by students at Mount Hope High School to engage in sexual acts."

According to the suit, while in the room, the students "raped and physically and sexually assaulted" B.E. The suit also alleges an unidentified female was present when this happened.

After they finished with her, B.E. maintains she left the room, and returned to outside the gym to await D.H. When D.H. completed practice, B.E. says she confided to him she'd been raped.

According the suit, D.H. informed his mother, who is a nurse, that B.E. may have been sexually assaulted. She arranged for B.E. to have a medical examination on Nov. 14 at Appalachian Regional Hospital in Beckley.

In their suit, the Endicott's allege what happened to B.E. could've been prevented. They claim that least one of her alleged attackers "had exhibited misconduct in school and also exhibited and engaged in predatory and sexual behavior towards women in general and female students in particular."

Also, the Endicotts allege the Mount Hope staff had a duty to provide B.E. a safe environment after missing her bus. This included allowing her to remain in either the office or gym under adult supervision.

The suit names Nevi, Morrison, Mike Hutchins and Leah Hutchins, Mount Hope's former principal and vice-principal, respectively, and the state Department of Education as co-defendants. Earlier this year, the Department ordered Mount Hope closed due to poor academic performance, and transferred all students to Oak Hill High School.

Along with ones for civil rights violations, including Title IX, the suit makes claims against the defendants for negligent supervision, intentional and reckless infliction of emotional distress and willful, wanton and reckless conduct.

Along with unspecified damages, the Endicotts seek an injunction ordering the Board to implement a program to guard against future student-on-student sexual assault, and harassment. They are represented by Matthew A. Victor with the Charleston law firm of Victor Victor and Helgoe, and Christopher D. Lefler and Leah A. Boggs Lefler with Lefler and Boggs in Beckley.

The case is assigned to Judge Joseph R. Goodwin.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number 11-cv-679

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