Hamilton Southeastern Schools sued over sexual assault allegations


Hamilton Southeastern Schools, various administrators and educators have been named in a civil lawsuit filed June 25 accusing the defendants of breaching their duty to protect a 13-year-old boy with special needs from repeated sexual assault by another student between August 2023 and January of this year. 

The lawsuit does not name the boy or his parents to protect the victim’s identity. It states that the Fishers Junior High School student has autism, an intellectual disability and a language impairment. He received special education services through the district. 

Defendants named in the lawsuit are Hamilton Southeastern School Corp.; HSE Superintendent Patrick Mapes; former principal of Fishers Junior High School Crystal Thorpe; current Principal Tige Butts, who was assistant principal at the time of the alleged assaults; teacher Helen Estep; Title IX Coordinator Jimmie Lake; and guidance counselor Basel Maarouf.

According to the complaint filed in Hamilton County Superior Court, the victim had been placed in a self-contained class for special needs students.

“The school assured (his) mother and father that the placement in this self-contained program, outside of the general education environment, along with the structure of this program, was so that the students in the program would be supervised at all times during the school day, using a team-based approach and direct adult supervision,” the lawsuit stated.

In November 2023, the boy started showing signs of anxiety and asked his parents how people contracted AIDS, the complaint stated. He later asked about sex and rape. His parents assumed these were new words he had heard, but in late January, his parents received a voicemail from the school counselor stating that there had been an “incident.” 

The complaint stated that the parents tried to call back five times on Feb. 1 and 2, but didn’t get through to the counselor. The counselor then sent an email stating that the boy’s teacher had received information about “concerning behavior” toward the victim from another student, and had referred the boy to the counselor.

“(He) shared (with the counselor) … that there is a student that has been asking him to meet him in the bathroom and is requesting inappropriate actions,” the complaint stated. “(He) shared that this happened three times last semester and it has not happened since then.”

The other student, who was not in the victim’s special education class, allegedly demanded oral sex and threatened the boy if he told anyone. The victim eventually confided in a classmate, who then told the teacher. 

The victim’s parents reported the abuse to police and to the Indiana Department of Child Services. The other child was not removed from school, according to the complaint. 

The complaint alleges that the school “failed to investigate the reported sexual abuse, failed to promptly interview teachers, students and others and failed to review and safeguard documents, including emails and videotapes which might shed light on the abuse. Only after attorneys for the parents demanded all school documents relating to (the boy) did the parents discover that the sexual abuse … started back in August 2023 and continued for over five months.”

According to the complaint, documents from the school show 11 messages between August 28, 2023, to January 25, 2024, sent to the victim on his iPad demanding that he meet the other student in a school bathroom. 

“These messages are labeled ‘Allowed Student Communications,’ and given (the boy’s) special needs, were supposed to be monitored by the school,” the complaint stated. “They were sent through the school’s applications and via the school’s emails.”

The boy was unsupervised in the school bathroom for long periods of time, according to the complaint, and nobody came to check on him.

The complaint states that the boy has regressed academically, socially and developmentally; has made comments about killing himself; and has asked if the abuse was his fault. He is in therapy. 

The lawsuit does not seek a specified dollar amount. Instead, it asks for “damages in an amount sufficient to compensate them for their losses,” legal expenses and other reasonable relief. 

HSE School and Community Relations Director Emily Pace Abbots stated that the district is aware of the lawsuit and takes it seriously. 

“While we are currently unable to discuss the specifics of the case due to its sensitive and ongoing nature, we are fully committed to cooperating with the legal process,” she stated in an email. “When these allegations were brought to our attention, we took appropriate action to ensure a safe learning environment. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of every student entrusted to our care.”