The mother of a 6-year-old elementary school student has filed a lawsuit against the Greater Clark County School Corp., claiming the district failed to protect her daughter when she was sexually assaulted by a teaching assistant last year.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Clark County Circuit Court 1, alleges that the Southern Indiana district “was negligent” when the first-grade student was sexually assaulted at Thomas Jefferson Elementary by 18-year-old Michael Begin Jr. on Oct. 17.
Begin, a Jeffersonville High student, is being held in the county jail on more than 20 charges of child molestation. He was at the elementary school as part of his high school’s Cadet Teaching Program.
Karl Truman, the lawyer representing the first-grader’s family, told Courier Journal on Friday that “school personnel were already aware of allegations of child abuse” prior to the assault, based on preliminary information. He added that the assault was captured by video surveillance.
Although the lawsuit provides the initials of the minor and the name of her mother, Courier Journal is not naming either because the suit claims the girl is a victim of sexual abuse.
“My main objective and the parents’ main objective is to bring this to the attention of the school community to make sure that something like this never happens to another child,” Truman said. “They’re all obviously emotionally traumatized. The child is actively engaged in counseling and therapy to deal with the circumstance and the trauma involved in this.”
A spokeswoman for Greater Clark County Schools said in a text message Friday that the school has no comment “at this time” because school officials had not yet been served the lawsuit.
Begin is also named as a defendant in the suit. He is charged with 24 counts of molestation for allegedly touching 17 children between the ages of 3 and 8 while working at the school and at the YMCA in Jeffersonville.
The lawyers representing Begin in the criminal case did not immediately respond to voicemails left before noon Friday seeking comment on the new lawsuit.
Begin was initially charged with two felony counts of child molesting in October after two 6-year-old students at Thomas Jefferson told their mothers that Begin had touched them under their clothing on Oct. 17.
A surveillance camera at the school recorded that moment and corroborated the children’s account, according to court records.
Begin was arrested and charged the next day. Court records say that he told police he was sorry, that he wasn’t sure why it happened and that it was an error in judgment. He later pleaded not guilty.
After the charges were made public, more children came forward with allegations.
The lawsuit does not seek specific damages. Indiana’s tort claims act states that damages from claims filed against government entities have to be capped at $700,000.
“No dollar recovery could adequately address what a 6-year-old child is going through with something like this,” Truman said. “The school failed. We want the school to be held accountable so this doesn’t happen again to any other child in the future.”