$5.7 Million Preliminary Sexual Assault Settlement Against Department of Education for Hawaii School for Deaf and Blind

The class action sex abuse lawsuit alleges sexual assault incidents occurred on the campus of the Hawaii school for the Deaf and Blind and on school buses since at least August 2001, and was allegedly covered up by the Department of Education.

Sexual-Assault-Settlement-Hawaii-Deaf-Blind-School-Alonso-Krangle-LLPFiled in August 2011, the class action lawsuit names the State of Hawaii, the Hawaii School for Deaf and Blind, school administrator Sydney Dickerson, and Scott O’Neal, a counselor as defendants. The complaint alleges that the “Ringleaders coerced students into doing what the Ringleaders wanted by threats of violence and sexual attack, including sodomy and rape.” At least 35 former and current students of Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind have alleged they were “bullied, terrorized, assaulted, robbed, sodomized (and) raped” by a group of older students who called themselves the “Ringleaders” at the school, and that the state and allowed the sexual abuse in the school to occur and then covered it up.

The sexual abuse complaint alleges that the abuse has been going on for many years, and that “Out of malice and improper purpose, defendants at times concealed and conspired to conceal what was going on an negligently, recklessly, and intentionally failed to take effective action to stop the wrongful activities,” Courthouse News reports. In fact, the suit alleges that school officials and the Department of Education were informed about the ongoing sexual abuse and intimidation in April, May, and June 2009.

The Hawaii School for Deaf and Blind is located in Kapahulu, and has about 80 resident students. HawaiiNewsNow.com reports that in April 2012, the school administrator was relieved of her duties and male contracted counselor was terminated allegedly due to inappropriate and questionable activities that included having students stay overnight at his home.

HawaiiNewsNow reports that several juvenile students were arrested in 2011 on criminal charges; however, the details of those cases will not be released due to the ages of the students. The lead plaintiff in the sexual abuse class action lawsuit made disturbing allegations that for years the school had a problem with the Ringleaders who “bullied, terrorized, assaulted, robbed, sodomized, raped, anally raped, gang raped, and/or sexually attacked students who were younger and smaller, including plaintiff John Doe.” She continues, “Students, including plaintiff John Doe, were coerced into submitting to anal sex with multiple members of the Ringleaders. … A young girl at the school became pregnant, which was known to school officials. … The Ringleaders coerced students into doing what the Ringleaders wanted by threats of violence and sexual attack, including sodomy and rape.” The complaint also alleges, “Under coercion by the Ringleaders, John Doe was forced to surrender to them various items of property, including clothing and video games. … At times when John Doe had nothing to provide the Ringleaders, they proceeded to fulfill their threats and engaged in sexual acts with John Doe, including on school property. Students, including plaintiff John Does, were coerced into submitting to anal sex with multiple members of the Ringleaders,” the Hawaii Reporter explains.

In January of this year, a new sexual abuse lawsuit was filed against the school alleging that a female student with an I.Q. of 40 was raped by students and a state employee at three separate Hawaii schools, including the Hawaii School for Deaf and Blind, Courthouse News reports.

According to the Hawaii Reporter, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin S. C. Chang has granted preliminary approval to a $5.7 million settlement. Judge Chang will decide on the final approval of the settlement on April 22. The settlement will be distributed to victims and witnesses of the sexual attacks in amounts dependent upon the severity of the injuries, in sums of $20.000, $75,000, or $200,000.

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