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Court filing alleges school district failed to protect a 12-year-old student at Alder Creek Middle School.

COURTESY PHOTO: NCSD - Alder Creek Middle School in unincorporated Milwaukie is shown here. The North Clackamas School District failed to protect a vulnerable student who was sexually abused by a classmate last year, a new lawsuit claims.

The plaintiff in the case was a 12-year-old seventh grader attending Alder Creek Middle School on Feb. 19, 2020 — the day she was raped and sexually assaulted in an unlocked closet inside the school by a male eighth-grader who was later prosecuted and convicted, the suit says.

Lawyers for the plaintiff and her mother, who are identified only by pseudonym, now seek $2 million in damages for the school district's alleged negligence, according to documents filed in Clackamas County Circuit Court on April 21.

"(The district) knew Plaintiff was emotionally immature, struggled with behavioral and impulse regulation, and struggled with age-appropriate interactions with her peers, making her more susceptible to bullying, harassment, and grooming by other students, especially older male students," according to the litigation. "(The district) also knew that Plaintiff had threatened serious harm to herself at school and tended to leave class without permission and wander the halls."

Clackamas County Juvenile Department officials confirmed that a 15-year-old Milwaukie resident was convicted on charges of third-degree sexual abuse, as well as separate cases of unauthorized use of a vehicle and harassment involving touching an intimate body part in December 2020.

A second-degree rape charge, two counts of second-degree sexual abuse and another harassment charge were dropped as part of a plea deal, records indicate. The boy is set to remain inside a secure correctional facility overseen by the Oregon Youth Authority until 2025.

A spokesman for North Clackamas said the district was aware of the legal action and is "fully cooperating."

"(North Clackamas) takes the physical and emotional safety of all students and staff extremely seriously without regard to their demographics," said spokesman Jonathan Hutchison.

But the suit alleges a pattern of previous incidents between the male and female student that should have alerted teachers and school administrators of the potential for harm.

While on a field trip in the sixth grade, the male student told her and other pupils he was going to "rape" them, the suit claims. A guidance counselor was alerted but no action was taken, the suit alleges.

In subsequent incidents over that school year and the next, the male student "repeatedly touched Plaintiff's chest, even though she told him that she did not like it and wanted him to stop, kissed Plaintiff, and hit her when she did not do what he asked," per the suit.

School leaders created a safety plan for the female student in January 2019 after she was hospitalized during a suicide attempt at home. It noted that she had a tendency to disappear from class without permission and walk in the hallways, the suit states.

"At some point prior to the incident, the District removed the requirement that Plaintiff have an adult escort when she left the classroom, in spite of Plaintiff's mother's continued concerns and the continued problem with the school losing track of (her)," according to the 10-page lawsuit.

The female student disenrolled from Alder Creek shortly before the school transitioned to remote learning during the pandemic.

Zane Sparling
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