Lawsuit Claims Hamilton County School Administrators Didn’t Protect Sexual Assault Victim

Image Credit: Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences

The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

A federal lawsuit claims a Chattanooga 7th grader was so badly harassed following a sexual assault in a school boiler room that she ended up having to be hospitalized due to a mental breakdown.

The lawsuit claims that school officials failed to act quickly in taking claims seriously after the incident was reported and even after the perpetrator was arrested.

According to the lawsuit, the female was a student at the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS). In the fall of 2021, she was allegedly propositioned multiple times by the suspect, a male student in her science class. The lawsuit states that he made vulgar comments to her such as, “You aren’t a virgin, are you?” and “I wanna see you naked.”

The lawsuit also states that in December 2021, while the victim was leaned over to look at a science project, he grabbed her hips and started to grind on her in front of the class.

The female student complained to her teacher who shared those complaints with Carmen Veller, principal of the middle school.

According to the lawsuit, the male student invited the female student to walk the school halls with him on December 9th, as a band concert took place after school in the auditorium.

Surveillance cameras in the school show the two walking through the hallways and cafeteria before going into a boiler room.

The lawsuit says that the boy then “verbally accosted Jane Doe and physically forced her to perform oral sex.”

The suit goes on to say that the female was harassed over the next few weeks by “sexual taunts” from the boy and other students. She began hiding in the bathroom, crying, and skipping classes.

On January 12th, the victim reported the incident to a teacher, writing it down because she was unable to say what had happened verbally.

The teacher then immediately turned that note in to Principal Veller who, according to the lawsuit, “took no immediate action.”

The lawsuit says “Ms. Veller admitted that when she first learned of the incident…she thought Jane Doe was lying and only after reviewing the surveillance tapes did she believe what Jane Doe reported was possibly true.”

Veller then contacted the Department of Children’s Services, CSAS Principal James Boles, and SRO Josh Shirley. Shirley contacted law enforcement to report the incident.

According to the victim’s parents, the school never contacted them. They did not learn of the allegations until they were contacted by law enforcement.

School administrators assured the girl’s family that he would be kept away from her but her parents claim that he continued to stare her down in the hallways and text her from another student’s phone.

Other students joined in after hearing of the allegations, tripping her and even pushing her down some stairs. Her parents began checking her out of school at lunchtime, according to the lawsuit.

Authorities charged the boy with rape and attempted kidnapping on March 22nd, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also says that the girl “began having a psychological breakdown as a result of the unrelenting bullying and sexual harassment that she had been receiving.” She was later hospitalized for several days.

According to the suit, the threats continued against her even after she was withdrawn from CSAS.

The lawsuit states, “The deliberate indifference demonstrated by HCDE, Mr. Boles, and Ms. Veller to the actions of Jim Doe allowed the taunts and harassment to evolve from a controlling and manipulative relationship culminating into sexual and student-on-student harassment by other students to Jane Doe.”

News Channel 9 received the following statement from Hamilton County Schools:

“Hamilton County Schools is aware of a lawsuit filed concerning an incident last year at the Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences. Our district works every day to support the education, safety, and wellbeing of our students. As this matter involves pending litigation, we will have no additional comment at this time.”

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