Columbus School Board Settles Lawsuit over Student Assault

February 27, 2008

The Columbus, Ohio school district is to pay $350,000 to settle a lawsuit with the family of a developmentally disabled student who was sexually assaulted at a city high school.

A 16-year-old girl told Mifflin High School officials in 2005 that at least two boys dragged her into the school’s auditorium, hit her and sexually assaulted her. She said she was forced to perform oral sex while another student videotaped.

High school principal Regina Crenshaw was fired after the incident and later acquitted of a misdemeanor charge of failing to report a sex crime.

The lawsuit, filed three months after the incident, claimed the district and Crenshaw were negligent and failed to take reasonable action to prevent the assault.

According to the agreement, the district is to pay $200,000 and its insurer, who was not named, is to pay $150,000 to the girl’s family.

After the girl’s father learned what happened, he called police even though an assistant principal warned him not to use 911 because it could be monitored by media outlets and attract public attention. School officials are required by law to report cases of abuse.

David Shroyer, an attorney for the girl’s family, said the settlement reached last week would end the claims against Crenshaw and other school administrators, who were unnamed defendants in the case.

Crenshaw’s attorney, Toki Clark, argued during a trial that her client fulfilled her legal duty to report the crime when she told a school resource official to call the Columbus police officer who was assigned to the school.

School board President Terry Boyd said the district settled to avoid having to pay more legal fees and perhaps lose the case. Funds budgeted for legal matters would pay for the settlement, he said.

The settlement awaits approval by Franklin County Probate Court because it involves payment to a minor.

Two teens pleaded guilty to delinquency counts of felonious assault on the girl. Three of Crenshaw’s assistant principals were suspended without pay for 10 days and reassigned.

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