June 4 (UPI) — Parents of six young children have filed a lawsuit against a Texas school district over claims that a sixth-grade boy sexually abused young girls in a kindergarten classroom.
Beginning in January 2022, the boy — who was identified in court documents as Johnny Doe because he is a minor – was invited into the classroom of kindergarten teacher Ashely Rankin at Amy Parks-Heath Elementary School in the Dallas suburb of Rockwall.
Lindy Lewis, the elementary school’s principal, had recently begun a program to bus some students from nearby Cain Middle School to the campus to assist kindergarteners with reading and math.
Over the course of four months, the parents allege in the lawsuit that the boy preyed on numerous children and penetrated an unknown number of them with his finger.
“These acts happened in Rankin’s kindergarten classroom at Amy Parks-Heath Elementary and were completely avoidable and foreseeable events made possible through reckless policy and programming decisions at the administrative level,” the lawsuit reads.
The parents said that the state’s Department of Education limits access to children by design and that campuses are meant to be secure.
“Teachers are meant to be certified. Administration is meant to be qualified. Tutoring and mentoring programs exist, but on extremely limited bases,” the lawsuit reads.
The parents added that, “certainly, there is no mechanism for providing ‘tutoring’ to kindergarteners without their parents’ knowledge or consent.”
“After many months of this program proceeding, in April 2022, a brave kindergarten boy was so troubled by what he witnessed in his classroom that he told his father that an older kid had been touching his female kindergarten peers on their bottoms,'” the lawsuit reads.
The father of the kindergarten boy emailed Rankin and demanded that she call him immediately. He notified her of what his son had told him when she called him immediately after receiving his message.
Because the school had no such policy or protocol for how a teacher should handle the situation, Rankin approached the kindergarten boy who again confirmed what he had told his father.
“Rankin spoke to the kindergartener who had been reportedly touched and asked her what had happened. She reluctantly confirmed that she had been touched in her genital area by the sixth-grade boy,” the lawsuit reads.
“She said it also happened to her friend.”
Rankin spoke with the second girl, who reported that two other girls had been abused — prompting the teacher to decide she needed help and pause her investigation.
“This was a large-scale, multi-victim sexual assault pattern and she needed help to determine next steps, since there was no protocol,” the parents said in the lawsuit.
Rankin then called Lewis and the school’s assistant principal but both were unavailable, so she left an urgent message with the school counselor Kristen Holder –who was not named in the lawsuit.
“Holder knew this particular sixth-grade boy. She had noticed over several months a behavioral change in him where he became increasingly aggressive with other students to on the school bus,” the lawsuit reads.
“Rankin recalls Ms. Holder telling her that the boy’s mother had even called her about his behavior changes.”
It took several hours for district administrators to step in — with RISD human resources director Mark Speck instructing Lewis and Holder to interview Johnny Doe upon his return to campus.
“They did as instructed, and the perpetrator confirmed generally that he had been touching the plaintiff kindergarten girls,” the lawsuit reads.
Despite the boy’s confession, Speck allegedly allowed Johnny Doe to take the bus home that day with the same girls he had allegedly admitted to abusing.
Though Rankin is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, the parents appeared largely sympathetic to her — stating that the teacher was “forced to accept” the presence of Johnny Doe in her classroom despite never being trained or briefed on the matter.
The parents also noted that Rankin “effectively had to create a protocol on her own as she reached out for help” in handling the matter only to find “closed doors.”
Instead, the parents appeared to primarily place blame on Lewis and district officials who they accused of attempting to “cover-up” the alleged abuse.
The parents alleged that district officials directed Holder not to provide counseling services to the children, never briefed families about the alleged abuse, and declined to hold a “town hall” or other means of an open forum for parents to ask questions.
“Mark Speck eventually called for Ashley Rankin’s resignation. He effectively threatened her that she would not receive a recommendation letter or teach school again unless she did so,” the parents said.
Rankin agreed to resign while crying in front of Speck and she was only able to obtain a recommendation letter after filing a grievance through her attorney.
Still, the parents are determined to hold Rankin legally responsible with her co-defendants for “supervisory failures.”
The parents noted that one of the reasons the alleged abuse had not been first reported to Rankin by the children as it happened was because of her own in-class policy.
Rankin allegedly had a “Mickey Mouse” policy under which the children were not to bother her when she was wearing Mickey Mouse ears.
“This is problematic because the teacher has a duty to safeguard her students, rather than to shut herself off from them,” the parents said.
“Rankin effectively stifled outcries and created an environment where the perpetrator had power over other kindergarten girls.”