Local News

Monday, Nov 18 2013 05:10 PM

Attorney files claim over school bus sexual assault

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Before showing a video of their daughter's assault by three boys on a bus last month, Fruitvale Junior High School officials tried to prepare her parents by telling them it would be "horrific."

The mother quickly turned away. The father watched the entire 5-minute segment.

Monday, attorney Daniel Rodriguez filed a claim against Fruitvale School District alleging the district's failure to keep the 13-year-old victim safe. A claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.

The Californian does not identify the victims of sexual assault.

Rodriguez said the portion of the video made available to the victim's parents shows their daughter seated in the middle of a school bus that was taking her home Oct. 22 after school when three boys assaulted her. They pulled back the hood of her sweatshirt, choked her, pulled out her hair and shoved her face into a boy's crotch, the attorney said.

One of the attackers grabbed the hands of a boy seated next to the victim and placed them on the girl's breasts, Rodriguez said. The attack took place over 17 minutes, and Rodriguez said he's in the process of getting the entire video.

He said the bus driver did nothing to stop the assault.

"It's pretty shocking that a school bus driver would ignore this," Rodriguez said.

The mother said the incident has caused her daughter nightmares. On Sunday, the girl dreamt it was dark outside as she walked home from the school bus and there was a man "out to get her," the mother said.

She tried going back to school but was bullied by classmates, the mother said. Now she stays home.

The mother said school officials made promises after the incident that they failed to keep. For example, one of the boys was supposed to be suspended, and then not ride that bus, but when her daughter took the bus home a few days after the assault the boy was on it.

She said she feels district officials are just trying to protect themselves.

Fruitvale School District Superintendent Mary E. Westendorf could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Kern County sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said detectives are continuing to investigate the incident. Once finished, they'll submit the investigation to the District Attorney's office for review.

Rodriguez said this case points to a basic trust that all parents have.

"You send your kids to school and think that they'll be safe and sound, and you trust school (officials) to make sure they're safe," he said.

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