CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A lawsuit seeking a civil rights injunction has been filed by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey against Mingo County school officials, claiming they brushed aside allegations that two male students sexually abused female classmates and interfered with a state police investigation of the incidents.
The lawsuit also claims that administrators at Burch Middle School retaliated against the girls for reporting the allegations.
“Instead of a meaningful investigation by the school, upon information and belief, the female victims have been disparately treated and punished, while the alleged male perpetrators have been ‘taken care of,’” Morrisey’s lawsuit alleges.
It says the abuses occurred during the 2012-13 school year and have persisted until now.
The lawsuit says the female victims told a guidance counselor of similar sexual abuse allegations in the spring of the 2012-13 school year — non-consensual fondling, groping and molestation, “oftentimes forcible in nature.”
The victims identified the same two male seventh-graders, both of whom are related to Mingo County school system employees. The boys “often acted in concert with one another,” the complaint states.
Defendants include the principal, vice principal, guidance counselor and a coach, the boys and their parents, the Mingo County School Board and superintendent.
The lawsuit alleges the abuses occurred on a school bus, in a school computer lab and on a field trip to Charleston.
Burch Middle School principal Melissa Webb and Mingo County’s school board attorney declined to comment Thursday.
“We are aware of the complaint that has been filed in the Circuit Court of Mingo County. Once the county has been formally served, we will respond accordingly,” school superintendent Randy Keathley said. “Mingo County Schools takes student safety seriously and remains committed to providing a secure environment for all students.”
State police spokesman Lt. Michael Baylous said the agency’s Crimes Against Children Unit is investigating at least one incident.
According to the lawsuit, Webb told a state trooper investigating the allegations he could no longer take statements from students on April 24 because “it disrupted the learning environment.”
The lawsuit filed Wednesday asks Mingo County Circuit Court to prevent further abuse and retaliation and bar the defendants from interfering with the police investigation.