WV school punished rape victim by moving her back a grade, attorney general says

West Virginia’s attorney general filed a civil rights lawsuit against a school district he said had failed to report sexual assault claims and then retaliated against the girls who reported the abuse.

Attorney General Patrick Morrissey asked a court for an injunction Thursday against the Mingo County Board of Education, where two girls claim they were molested and sexually assaulted by two male students at the school and on a field trip.

The girls were seventh-graders in 2012, when they said two boys restrained and groped them on a school bus and in a school computer lab, and one of the girls said one of the boys sexually assaulted her on a school trip to Charleston.

According to court filings, the girls were threatened with discipline and administrators at Burch Middle School retaliated against them.

“Every action taken by (the) defendants was either to minimalize the allegations against the boys and/or to protect the alleged male juvenile perpetrators,” according to the filing, signed by Assistant Attorney General J. Robert Leslie.

The attorney general’s filing names Melissa Webb, principal of Burch Middle School in Delbarton; Deanna Maynard, vice principal; Hester Keatley, guidance counselor; Melvin Cunningham, a coach at the school; and Randy Keathley, superintendent of Mingo County Schools.

The filing also lists the Migno County School Board and the two alleged assailants, who are not named, and their parents.

“We’re aware of the complaint that has been filed in the circuit court of Mingo County,” Randy Keathley said. “Once the county has been formally served, we will respond accordingly and, finally, Mingo County Schools takes student safety seriously and remains committed to providing a secure environment to all students.”

The civil rights injunction asks the defendants to stay away from the girls and their families while state police investigate their claims.

The 32-page complaint says one victim was most recently disciplined for her complaints in late April after speaking to state police, who were attempting to investigate the matter.

Administrators moved one girl to the seventh grade because one of the boys was in her eighth-grade classes, the filing claims, while the boy stayed in his age-appropriate classes.

Both boys are students whose relatives are employees of the school system, the complaint claims.

The first victim was afraid to report the alleged abuse, the filing claims, but two other girls who said they were abused by the same boys told the guidance counselor.

The principal at the time, Jada Hunter, spoke several times to the girl’s mother but did not inform her of the full extent of the allegations and told her she had taken care of the problem.

Administrators then met with the alleged assailant’s parents, and his father admitted to the claims, according to the filing.

Cunningham, the coach, told the victim she could not prove anything because there were no witnesses and threatened disciplinary action against her, the filling claims.

Hunter and Webb, then the vice principal, gave the boys one day of out-of-school suspension and one day of in-school suspension.

They were also denied ice cream during a break in standardized testing.

Mingo County School requires employees to report sex abuse claims to law enforcement within 48 hours.

[Image: sexual abuse via Shutterstock]