BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A 15-year-old student with special needs was taken into the basement of West Seneca West high school last year and was sexually assaulted by another student, according to a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court.
The plaintiff -- identified in the filing only by her initials -- was inside the high school on May 10, 2019, “when she was sexually assaulted by another student in the basement of the school, resulting in...serious, painful, and permanent injuries.”
“A specific perpetrator took a young female student with special needs to the basement of the school through an unlocked door and raped her and molested her on several occasions,” Joseph L. Nicastro, the girl’s attorney, said in an interview.
The male student who allegedly assaulted the girl was arrested and charged with a crime, West Seneca police officials confirmed.
A spokeswoman for Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn Jr. said she could not release the name "because the adolescent offender is youthful offender eligible" and if granted, the status seals the court records.
But she said the adolescent offender pleaded guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor sex crime charge in July 2019, admitting that he engaged in sexual conduct with two female victims without their consent. The first assault occurred in March 2019 at a home in West Seneca, while the second occurred in May 2019 at the school. He was sentenced in October 2019 to one year of interim probation.
The lawsuit, filed by the mother of the girl, names the school district as defendants and states that the district’s “negligence, carelessness, and/or recklessness” was a “substantial factor” in causing her daughter’s injuries by the male student who allegedly assaulted her.
The district, the lawsuit states, permitted “an environment that allowed sexual abuse to persist in defendants’ school, whereby the infant plaintiff...had been victimized prior to the incident...in the school’s basement.”
“It's unacceptable,” Nicastro said. “Parents send their kids to school and expect them to be protected and safe. And this was a complete systems failure from the top to the bottom. The perpetrator should have never had access to an unlocked basement, or any student for that matter.”
The district appeared to be aware of the complaint, as the lawsuit references a November hearing conducted by the district during which the plaintiff swore to her testimony.
"The District is unable to discuss any specific matters involving minors," district spokesperson Jennifer Flore said in a written statement. "The District has a zero tolerance policy against sexual assault and we remain fully committed to protecting the safety and well-being of our students."
Nicastro said he is aware of at least one other victim of the boy, but said he does not represent the other alleged victim, and that incident did not necessarily occur at the school.
“We are aware of other victims,” Nicastro said. “This is a very serious matter. How many we don't know.”