EXCLUSIVE: DOE sued over sex assaults

EXCLUSIVE: DOE sued over sex assaults

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There's more fallout from the sex assault scandal at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind.

A lawsuit filed by a Honolulu woman says that students were allowed to sexually abuse her daughter repeatedly not just at the Kapahulu school, but also at McKinley High School.

The suit also alleges that a state employee sexually assaulted her daughter at the state-run vocational center at the Lanakila Center in Liliha.

"The schools were not doing their job. They allowed the abuse and they themselves were the abuser and they take no responsibility for it," said the woman, who was identified in the lawsuit by her initials R.H.

The girl was among dozens assaulted and beaten by fellow students at the Deaf and Blind school for years. A class action lawsuit over the school was recently settled, with the state agreeing to pay the victims $5 million.

Attorney Paul Alston -- who along with Maui lawyer Eric Ferrer and Honolulu attorney Susan Dorsey are representing the girl -- say they opted out of that class action settlement.

The reason: The alleged abuse occurred at other DOE locations and the emotional and physical distress suffered by the girl wouldn't be covered by a single-person's share of the class-action settlement proceeds.

"I've never seen a case where there's been this sort of depraved indifference to the needs of a vulnerable handicapped child," said Alston.

The girl, known as A.H., is now 19 and was a high school student when the alleged abuse occurred. The lawsuit says the girl is mentally disabled and has the intellectual capacity of less than a fourth grader.

The girl is neither deaf nor blind but was sent to the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind by the DOE, while she attended McKinley.

A DOE spokeswoman had no response but the lawsuit alleges the department not only failed to protect their client but punished her repeatedly by suspending her.

In one instance, the lawsuit alleges that a boy at McKinley High School entered A.H.'s classroom in 2011 and demanded in full view of a teacher that she meet him in the bathroom to perform oral sex on him.

When administrators learned of this incident, they suspended the girl and didn't take further steps to protect her, the suit said.

In another instance, an adult male employee at a state-run vocational program at the Lanakila Center in Liliha allegedly sexually molested her several times in 2011 and went so far as to give her a calendar that would "indicate when he wanted to sexually abuse her," the suit said.

Attorneys for the girl say the DOE was aware of the alleged sex assault by the adult but did not report the incident to police or other authorities.

Advocates for the disabled say the allegations are disturbing.

"Seeing this happened not only at the Deaf and Blind School but also at McKinley and other places raises some questions about what's going on at the DOE," said Louis Erteschik, executive director for the Hawaii Disability Rights Center.

The suit -- which seeks unspecified damages -- says the abuses were only discovered after the girl had a psychotic breakdown in 2011 and was went to the Queen's Medical Center's Family Treatment Center, where she remained for three months.

"It was heartbreaking to go home and know my child is put in there because the school was not doing its job," the girl's mother said.

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.