HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Muslim community is facing allegations it failed to prevent several sexual assaults of a 3-year-old girl by an older boy at a private school it runs on its property.
The parents of the girl filed a lawsuit in state court last month against the Muslim Society of Greater Danbury, which runs the Al Hedaya Islamic Center in Newtown. They are seeking unspecified damages.
The lawyer and the principal for the school deny the parents’ allegations that school officials acted improperly. They also say the allegations against the boy have never been proven.
“The Muslim Society of Greater Danbury is a leader in the community with its outreach, community and charitable work,” the society’s lawyer, Refai Arefin, said in a statement. “The MSGD takes the safety and security of its congregation very seriously. When the facts are known, it will be shown that the allegations directed at MSGD and its volunteers are completely false.”
Newtown police say they investigated the sexual assault allegations but there was no probable cause to arrest the boy. Court documents don’t list the boy’s age but say he was a minor.
The parents say their daughter, known as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, was a 3-year-old kindergarten student at the Islamic Center’s school when she was sexually assaulted by the boy several times in a bathroom and other secluded areas of the school between Sept. 15 and Oct. 6, 2015. Their lawsuit alleges all the assaults involved the boy touching the girl’s private parts.
The parents noticed a change in the girl’s behavior and took her to a therapist, who concluded she had been sexually assaulted and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, the lawsuit says.
The girl’s parents say school officials were well aware that the boy, named John Roe in the lawsuit, had a “propensity” for violence and bullying before their daughter began attending the school and didn’t take action to protect other students from him. The lawsuit says school officials also knew of a report that the boy previously had bullied another male student and the bullying involved contact that “may have been sexual in nature.”
Sexual assault of students by other students is a problem at schools across the country. A yearlong Associated Press investigation uncovered about 17,000 official reports of sexual assaults by students over a recent four-year period, a figure that doesn’t fully capture the problem because such violence is greatly under-reported and some states don’t track it.
The plaintiffs say school officials are required by Connecticut law to report physical abuse of students to the state Department of Children and Families but did not do so in the case of the bullying and possible sexual assault of the other boy. They also allege school officials did not promptly report the sexual assault of their daughter to the state, a claim also denied by school officials.
The lawsuit further alleges the school is not certified by the state to operate as a private school or accredited by any educational group and its teachers don’t have the credentials needed for their jobs.
Although the Islamic Center’s website says a “private school” called the Granada Academy operates at its Newtown property for students in pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade, Arefin and the school’s principal, Kristin Fuller, said the school actually is a “homeschooling community” supervised by parents that is not subject to state laws on private schools.
Fuller is countersuing the girl’s parents on defamation allegations, saying their false allegations are damaging to her reputation.
Fuller also alleges in court documents that the girl’s mother was jealous of the boy’s mother and was removed as a teacher at the school because she was ineffective, both factors Fuller suggests were motivation for the mother to file the lawsuit.