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 Home > News > Kalie McArthur v. Academy School District 20 - Parents Sue After Daughter Assaulted by "Peer Tutor" (07/06/06)

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Kalie McArthur v. Academy School District 20
Parents Sue After Daughter Assaulted by "Peer Tutor"

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In September 2004, 18 year old Kalie McArthur was a student at Rampart High School in Academy School District 20, Colorado Springs, CO.
She had an IQ of about 50 and several medical problems - a metabolic disorder, a seizure disorder, ataxia (dizziness), developmental delays, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Kalie with her dad, James McArthurKalie was affectionate, loving, trusting - and vulnerable to abuse.

In February 2004, the school psychologist for Rampart High School wrote a letter about Kalie's need for "full-time adult supervision in all environments," and "an adult must be present with her at all times."

Kalie received special education services from Academy School District 20 and had an IEP. Because of her complex emotional and medical needs, her IEPs specified "Adult supervision at all times." Kalie was placed in the "Severe Needs" classroom at Rampart High School.

Special Ed Teacher Appoints "Field Trainer"

In September, 2004, the special education teacher assigned a 15 year-old boy to be Kalie's "field trainer" (peer tutor). The boy escorted Kalie around the campus, "supervised" her, and spent time alone with her.

Rampart High School, Colorado Springs, COThe school acknowledged that they did not screen or train this boy. He had a long record of suspensions for disciplinary problems and had failed all courses during the previous year.

On September 14, 2004, the boy led Kalie into a stairwell and sexually assaulted her. A coach discovered them. (Note: Wrightslaw does not usually publish the names of sexual assault victims. Kalie's parents, Cindy Starr and James McArthur, have consented to the release of names to the media.)

In 2005, the boy pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual conduct with a helpless victim. A judge sentenced him to serve two weeks in jail.

Kalie's parents are special education teachers. They were not aware that Kalie was not under adult supervision at all times, as required by her IEP.

Possible Abuse by Other Students

According to the Complaint filed in U. S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Kalie reported to a therapist that she had been taken to a room by other male students and assaulted before the September 14 incident.

"About 10 days before the assault, we noticed bruises on her thighs," said Kalie's mother. "After the assault, she said there was groping and grabbing going on before the assault involving other boys as well."

Impact of Abuse

After these events, Kalie changed. She was no longer "sweet, loving, affectionate, and trusing." She had extreme behavior problems and became self-abusive. She stopped eating. Her weight dropped from 105 to 85 pounds. She experienced severe anxiety, fear, and insecurity.

"She was loving and trusting. She went everywhere with us," her mother said, "Now, it takes 100 percent of one person to manage her aggression."

What did Academy School District 20 ( do to help Kalie?

The district removed Kalie from Rampart High School and placed her in "transition classes" at Community Intersections, a local non-profit agency staffed by people with disabilities.

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Aide Abandons Kalie

Because Kalie was so fearful, she needed repeated assurances from adults that she was safe.

In December 2005, the district hired an aide to work one-on-one with her. The aide soon became frustrated and impatient with Kalie. In February 2006, Kalie urinated in her pants. The aide took her into the bathroom, turned out the light, and left her there ... alone.

The Complaint explained that a staff member found Kalie sitting on the floor, in the dark, trembling. When confronted, the aide blamed Kalie, saying "I'm just not going to play her games!"

District Expert Says "Assault Was Pleasurable"

According to newspaper articles, Kalie's parents wanted to resolve this case through mediation, but the school district refused.

Although Kalie was fearful of males, Academy School District 20 hired a male psychologist to evaluate her. According to her mother, the psychologist "said the assault was pleasurable, not traumatic ... He said it ignited her female desires."

But in late May 2006, Kalie's transition coordinator wrote, "Due to regression in Kalie's functional level during the 05-06 school year, [she] requires an increased amount of direct care in order to keep her safe."

Parents File Lawsuit

On June 2, 2006, Kalie's parents filed a lawsuit on her behalf against Academy School District 20. Named in the suit are the Board of Education of Academy School District 20, the principal of Rampart High School, the special education teacher, and the para-professional.

Download the Complaint in Kalie McArthur v. Academy School District 20. (

The suit requests compensatory and punitive damages.

"A Wolf in Charge of a Defenseless Lamb"

"The unreasonably dangerous situation of placing Kalie McArthur in the hands of the 'field trainer' - a hormone driven, deeply troubled, 15 year-old boy - happened as a direct result of D-20's official policy and decision making. D-20's official policy was akin to placing a wolf in charge of a defenseless lamb and leaving the two alone."

Jeffrey Weeks of the Colorado Springs law firm, Weeks & Luchetta, is representing Kalie and her parents.

School District Attempts to Silence Parents

Local newspaper articles about the case alleged that the attorney for Academy School District 20 wrote a letter to the parents' attorney and "requested" that the parents stop talking to the media.

If the family persists, the school district will ask the court to restrict the family from talking to the media because “any further press coverage will cause substantial and irreversible prejudice to our clients.”

"Please be advised that if your client does not wish to enter into a confidentiality agreement, we will be petitioning the Court for injunctive relief.”

What Happens Next?

The School District is expected to file a Response to the Complaint which, in similer types of Federal Court litigation, may be a "12b6" Motion to Dismiss without regard to the truth and accuracy of the facts alleged in the Complaint. At a later point, dependent upon the Court's ruling on a Motion to Dismiss, and perhaps after discovery proceedings, a Motion for Summary Judgment can be expected. Then, depending on the Court's rulings, we may see a pleading filed by the school district in which the truth and accuracy of the allegations will be admitted or denied.

For more information about the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) and their relationship to special education due process hearings, see "Due Process Procedures and Timelines" in Appendix E, page 140, in Wrightslaw: IDEA 2004.

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Glenn Beck of CNN Headline News

Glenn Beck Interviews Pete and Pam Wright (06/28/06)ShowGlenn Beck of CNN Prime Headline News has a daughter with cerebral palsy. Outraged by the facts in this case, Mr. Beck has taken up Kalie's cause.

On June 28, Pete and Pam Wright were guests on the Glenn Beck Show. Mr. Beck asked how parents can protect their children from abuse and whether the laws are tough enough to protect individuals like Kalie. Transcript.

More Information about Kalie McArthur's Case

Glenn Beck Interviews Kalie's Mother - In an interview by Glenn Beck, Ms. Starr describes the sexual assault and the reasons why she and her husband filed a lawsuit against the school. (6/30/06)

How Can Parents Prevent Abuse of Special Needs Kids? Pete and Pam Wright are guests on the Glenn Beck Show. and answered questions about how parents can protect their children from abuse and whether laws are tough enough to protect individuals like Kalie. (6/28/06)

Parents: Expert Says Attack 'Pleasurable'
Associated Press. The parents of a severely disabled woman suing a Colorado Springs school district over a sexual assault at a high school said the district has refused to mediate a civil lawsuit as one of its experts called the attack "pleasurable" for the woman. (June 13, 2006)

Lawyer sees school hush-up - Girl's parents sue over alleged assault by young caretaker by Deborah Frazier, Rocky Mountain News. A Colorado Springs school district wants to silence the parents of a severely disabled girl who was sexually assaulted at school by a boy assigned to watch her, an attorney said Monday.(June 13, 2006)

D-20 to family: Be quiet by Brian Newsome, Colorado Springs Gazette. Academy School District 20 has asked relatives of a mentally disabled girl who was sexually assaulted at a school to cease talking to the media, and it’s threatening legal action if they persist. (June 9, 2006)

Mission of Rampart High School - "
A dynamic school community daring to transcend excellence, Rampart High School ensures every student opportunities to maximize academic success and co-curricular involvement. In a safe environment of mutual respect, integrity, and dedication, we pledge to provide challenging curriculum and diverse learning experiences which promote participation as productive citizens in a global society." Mission of Rampart High School (right side of page on school website)

Abuse: Resources & Caselaw

There are several reasons why children with disabilities are more likely to be abused than non-disabled children:

* Lack of communication skills
* Dependency
* Institutional care

The child who does not understand sexuality and abuse is less likely to recognize or report abuse. Some children may be afraid to report that they are being abused, especially if they are dependent upon the abuser. If a child cannot communicate verbally, it is difficult or impossible for the child to report abuse.

Use IEP Goals & Objectives to Protect Child from Abuse

A school proposes to assign a male aide to help an adolescent female with bathroom and feminine hygiene needs. Her parent objects, to no avail.

In Male Aides for Female Students, advocate Pat Howey suggests ways to get the school to reconsider this plan and provides a list of IEP goals and objectives to help this young lady learn to live safely and independently.


Covington v. Knox Co (TN) U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Decision in "time-out room" child abuse case; creates exceptions to exhaustion requirement in damages cases. In html

$250,000 Settlement in McCarter Case. In case about sexual abuse of a child with cerebral palsy and school's failure to provide an appropriate education, the state, school district and parents entered into a settlement agreement of $250,000 for damages, attorneys’ fees and expenses, vocational and rehabilitation services, and state-wide policy changes.

Shawn Witte v. Clark County (NV) School Board, et. al., U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. School brutality case; damages sought under Section 504 and the ADA on behalf of child with disability. Court issued pro-child decision; discussed exhaustion of remedies under the IDEA and appropriate damages for physical abuse and injury. Decision in pdf

W.B. v. Matula, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In case where child was bullied by teacher and other students, court held that damages are available under Section 504, IDEA, and Section 1983 since the district refused to evaluate, classify and provide appropriate services to the disabled child; includes discussion of exhaustion, qualified immunity, and due process.

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Created: 07/02/06
Last revised: 12/30/08

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