Former student files suit saying school officials did not protect her after sexual assault at NSHS

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – A former North Smithfield High School student has filed a lawsuit in Rhode Island District Court accusing the school department and former school officials of failing to protect her from a sexual assault by an older student, and creating a hostile environment that allowed her to be bullied and harassed by students and teachers after reporting the incident.

The student, using the pseudonym “C.P.,” filed a suit against the town, former principal Timothy McGee and former Asst. Principal Steven Boss on Monday, May 20 through her attorneys Joshua Carlin and Mary Welsh McBurney of Providence-based Hanson Curran LLP.

According to the filing, C.P. was 14-years-old when she was assaulted in the bathroom after school by an 18-year-old male student in 2017. The allegations state that at the time, her attacker had already been implicated in a previous assault, and faced disciplinary action by being banned from the football team, but was allowed to remain on school grounds without supervision.

C.P. states that Boss, who resigned in 2023, yelled at and shamed the her after she reported the incident, threatened to show her parents video footage from after the assault, and implied she welcomed the attack.

McGee later told the student’s parents about the incident, who then reported it to the North Smithfield Police Department. The male student was arrested and charged with first degree child molestation. He later admitted to third-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to a five-year suspended term with probation and home confinement, and ordered not to contact the victim.

The suit states that the school, Boss and McGee all failed to notify the state Department of Children, Youth and Families about the allegations, a requirement under state law.

The plaintiff also states that she was frequently bullied by both other students and and teachers following the 2017 incident. During a field trip, she said one teacher even outed her as the victim, stating she was, “a nice girl,” who just, “made a bad decision.”

“On numerous occasions, C.P.’s parents contacted Boss and the school to report the incidents of bullying and abuse suffered by C.P.,” the suit notes. “No disciplinary action was taken by the school or Boss regarding the teachers or students engaged in the campaign of bullying, harassment and abuse, in violation of the school’s policies.”

The allegations note that the school provided no support to the student as a victim of trauma – academic or otherwise – and educators were, in fact, less willing to help her succeed.

The litigation says the student suffered severe and permanent harm at a result of the inaction, including emotional distress, humiliation, a disruption of the ability to enjoy life’s pleasures, the destruction of her sense of safety and wellbeing, and an end to the ability to enjoy the benefits of the education and educational services provided by the school.

C.P eventually withdrew from North Smithfield, finishing high school at Woonsocket Career and Technical Center.

The suit charges that the town and school violated the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act and the student’s right to equal protection; her First Amendment rights to report the assault; failed to fix the hostile school environment in violation of Title IX; and denied equal access to educational opportunities by creating an abusive and hostile environment.

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