Mother files amended ADA complaint over sexual assault of Pinellas County School student

By Karen Kidd | Jan 15, 2019

TAMPA — The mother of a former Pinellas County School student, whose federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit against the school system following the 2016 sexual assault of her son by another student was dismissed last month, has filed an amended complaint.

The mother of the boy known as G.C. filed the amended complaint against Pinellas County School Board on Jan. 7, the extended deadline date previously handed down by U.S. District Judge Steven Douglas Merryday, on the bench in U.S. District Court for Florida's Middle District, Tampa Division. Merryday had dismissed the case on Dec. 17 with leave to file an amended complaint by Dec. 31.

On Dec. 21, Merryday granted G.C.'s mother's motion for an extension to submit an amended complaint.

G.C.'s mother alleges that Pinellas County School Board employees failed to prevent the assault on her son by another student.

G.C. and his assailant, identified in court papers as Z.W.M., had both been serving in-school suspension at Pinellas Secondary School in February 2016 when Z.W.M. followed G.C. off the school grounds, according to the background portion of Merryday's ruling in December.

"After leaving the school grounds, Z.W.M. sexually assaulted G.C., who escaped by faking an asthma attack and fleeing to a store," the ruling said. "Z.W.M. later pleaded guilty to kidnapping G.C. and to lewd and lascivious conduct. Z.W.M. remains incarcerated."

Following the assault, G.C. suffered severe anxiety and flashbacks and twice suffered involuntary civil commitment under the Baker Act. G.C. also was bullied and harassed in a cluster program designed to foster a small, supportive environment for a student with an emotional disability, G.C.'s mother claimed in her original and amended complaints.

G.C. mother alleged her son was placed in the cluster program in an "intentional effort" to force G.C. out of the public school system, which he did leave during the 2016-17 school year.  G.C. mother later filed suit against Pinellas County School Board alleging that school employees failed to prevent the assault in violation of the ADA.

The school board filed a motion to dismiss the complaint saying G.C.'s mother had failed to state a claim.

Merryday granted the motion on Dec. 11, saying G.C.'s mother failed to allege facts that demonstrated the school board "maintained a custom of failing to train employees to supervise students" because the complaint alleged "only an isolated incident," the 11-page ruling said.

"Although (G.C.'s mother) alleges that Z.W.M. previously 'injured' two other students, (G.C.'s mother) alleges no facts showing, for example, that the injuries resulted from inadequate supervision by board employees in circumstances comparable to those of G.C. or that the failure of other employees on other occasions to supervise students caused an injury in comparable circumstances," the ruling said. "Because (G.C.'s mother) alleges no pattern of similar employee failures caused by a lack of training, L.C. fails to demonstrate that the board was on notice of the need to train and made a deliberate choice not to train."

The original complaint also was "replete with inconsistent and confusing designations," Merryday said in his ruling.

"For example, the complaint interchangeably mentions (G.C.'s mother) and G.C. as 'the plaintiff' or 'the plaintiffs,' calls the defendant 'the defendants,' and occasionally alleges action by an undefined 'district,'" the ruling said. "An amended complaint must consistently describe the people and entities."

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