7 Year-Old Sexually Assaulted on School Bus will Bring Suit Against North Kitsap School District

Friedman | Rubin attorney Cheryl Snow has given notice that the family of a 7 year-old girl will bring a lawsuit against the North Kitsap School District for negligence in assigning a physically aggressive boy to a school bus for special needs students where he sexually assaulted the young girl on multiple days in December, 2019.

R.B. is seven years old. She has significant cognitive impairment, physical disabilities, and is non-verbal. R.B, attends Gordon Elementary in Kingston, WA, where she is in the second grade in a Special Education Program.

In December of 2019, R.B. rode a North Kitsap School District special education bus to and from school.

On the afternoon of December 2, 2019, when the bus driver dropped R.B. off at her home where she resides with her grandmother, the bus driver told her that R.B. had taken her pants off while on the bus. The bus driver told the grandmother that he had not seen R.B. do this. The grandmother was shocked by this claim as R.B. typically requires some assistance from others to dress and undress. She expressed her concern to the bus driver and he promised her that he would report the incident to his supervisors and obtain and watch the bus’s surveillance video to see what had happened to R.B on the bus.

The next day, on the afternoon of December 3, 2019, when the bus dropped R.B. off at her home, the bus driver told the grandmother that R.B. had again undressed from the waist down. The driver described discovering R.B. naked from the waist down after a male student reported that she had taken off her clothes. He told the grandmother that when he checked on R.B., he found that her shoes, socks, leggings, and underpants were off. The bus driver claimed that he had not seen how this occurred.

R.B.’s grandmother brought her into their home and removed R.B.’s clothing. She collected R.B.’s underwear, diaper pad, and some wipes that she had used to clean R.B.’s privates and brought R.B. to the hospital for a sexual assault examination and reported the incidents to Gordon Elementary School Principal.

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputy Joe Hedstrom was assigned to investigate. Deputy Hedstrom obtained and reviewed surveillance video from the bus that R.B. rode on December 2nd and 3rd. Deputy Hedstrom detailed his observations of the bus video in his investigative report. According to Deputy Hedstrom, the bus video from December 2nd, showed a male student removing R.B.’s boots and pants. The male student then appears to touch R.B.’s bare genitals and crawl on top of R.B.

A separate incident on December 3rd shows the same male student crawling across the school bus’s aisle and sliding on his belly under R.B.’s seat. It is unclear what exactly the male student does to R.B. at that time. After a brief period, the male student returns to his seat. Shortly thereafter, the male student shimmies back under R.B.’s seat and crawls on top of R.B. With R.B. facing forward in her seat, and the male student on top of her facing backwards, the male student appears to repeatedly make “thrusting motions” for over a minute. The male student then climbs off of R.B. and returns to his seat with his pants down around his knees. Once back in his seat, the male student pulls his pants up and appears to be “adjusting himself”. He then leans forward and tells the bus driver that R.B. “took her pants off again.” The bus driver (eventually) checked on R.B. and observed that she had “nothing on”. R.B.’s tights and underwear were “jumbled up on the floor.”

The investigation revealed that the male student who sexually assaulted R.B. originally rode a regular (not special needs) North Kitsap School District bus. Because of his continual behavioral issues, including fighting another student, the School District removed the male student from that bus. What was the School District’s solution to this disruptive, physically aggressive boy? The School District placed him on a Special Ed. bus. Despite the obvious vulnerability of the students who rode the special education bus, the School District provided absolutely no warning about the boy’s aggressive, troublesome behavior to the parents of children who rode the bus.

The action of the North Kitsap School District of removing a male student because of a pattern of concerning behavioral issues and placing him on a bus for special needs students is particularly troubling considering the School District’s recent settlement in a lawsuit involving similar misconduct – a student, who had been removed from his bus and placed on a special education bus, sexually assaulted three special needs students on that bus.

Attorney Cheryl Snow’s Notice to the North Kitsap School District concludes that “a child with disabilities, should have been able to ride the bus to and from school in safety. The negligence of the North Kitsap School District in this case resulted in the sexual assault of a little girl, who used to enjoy riding the bus to school.”