ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The Orange County School Board is paying $375,000 to settle a case with the guardian of a developmentally disabled former Apopka High School student.
The lawsuit alleges the district failed to protect that student from sexual assault and battery at the hands of another student. It also alleges Apopka High School breached its duties by allowing another student to sexually assault the girl during school hours.
During a gym class at Apopka High School in 2017, the lawsuit alleges a student was sexually assaulted by a student who posed a known risk.
“We really need to do more to take a protective role,” said Michael Dolce, an attorney who represents victims of sex crimes.
While he didn’t work this case, he points to a part of the lawsuit that says the student had conditions that made her vulnerable to harm, including developmental delays, a language impairment, and an intellectual disability.
“She could be in high school, as appears to be the case here, but functioning at like a fourth or fifth-grade level,” Dolce said.
According to the lawsuit, in order to accommodate her needs, the victim’s individualized education plan stated she needed assistance for learning activities, and required supervision to ensure her safety. Attorneys representing the student claimed the district was negligent because they didn’t supervise her during a gym class and she was sexually assaulted in a bathroom stall.
“We oftentimes see, unfortunately, that staffing breaks down there’s inadequate staffing in these other locations because the IEP is not specifically directed there, even though it needs to be,” Dolce said.
The lawsuit never made it to trial, as school board officials voted to OK the $375,000 settlement on Tuesday.
“It’s a number that to me, I perceive as more likely than not one that says, we recognize that we did something wrong here,” Dolce said.
Channel 9 reached out to the district and they said they do not comment on settlements. Documents on file with the school board say OCPS has denied any wrongdoing at all times, and the settlement agreement reasserts that the district didn’t do anything wrong.
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