On Your Side Investigation: Alleged sexual assault of special education student under police, school investigation

On Your Side Investigation: Alleged sexual assault of special education student under police, school investigation
Source: WBRC
Source: WBRC
Source: WBRC

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham Police and the city school system are investigating an alleged sexual assault at Jackson Olin High School after a special education student says she was assaulted in the girls' bathroom by fellow students.

"I hold the school responsible and it starts at the top," said YaWanda Hicks, grandmother of the then 14-year-old victim. Hicks says she learned of the incident when school officials called her the day after it happened.

Hicks described her granddaughter, who turned 15-years-old after the alleged assault, as loving and trusting. The teen's school records, shared by Hicks, show she is enrolled in self-contained classes and operates at about a 2nd to 3rd grade level in reading and math.

Hicks says her granddaughter has trouble articulating herself; a similar observation is reflected in the school records, in that she "often does not understand how her verbalizations effect (sic) her peers."

A spokesman for Birmingham police confirmed the department is investigating an alleged sexual assault at the school from November. Though the department refused to provide a copy of the police incident report, citing a policy of not releasing reports that are "sexual in nature especially involving teenagers," Hicks and her lawyer provided a copy to WBRC.

The report indicates that during Physical Education class, the teen went to the restroom inside the girls' locker room. The teen told police that several male students followed her.

"She hears someone come in the restroom and the boy told her come out. She said, 'No,'" explains Hicks.

'"Come on out of there, girl.' She said, 'No,'" Hicks said, continuing to describe her understanding of the incident.

"He kicked the door open. And the others came in and this is what they did to my child," Hicks says.

School administrators told police that the teen was "forced to perform oral sex on four male students," according to the report. The teen further alleges in the report that another male student recorded the incident on his phone.

Birmingham City Schools declined an interview, but provided a written statement:

"Birmingham City Schools considers student safety and security a top priority. In this regard, we are actively investigating an alleged incident, but are unable to comment further. When incidents such as this are reported, Birmingham City Schools is committed to taking swift and appropriate action to resolve such matters."

The male students accused range in age from 14 to 18. When called to the school's main office, the report says the male students said the acts were consensual.

Also according to the report, the teen says at least one male student forced her to perform oral sex, that she said "no" to boys as they approached her and that she told police "she was forced and was scared [and] that's why she performed[ed] oral sex on the boys."

"This was a 14-year-old girl. No matter how you cut it, by law, statutorily, this is a sexual assault," said Leroy Maxwell, attorney for Hicks.

According to the report and Hicks, the boys were placed on a Class III suspension, which requires a hearing to determine whether they can return to school.

According to the Birmingham City Schools Code of Student Conduct, expulsion from all city schools is an option, and restitution may also be required.

In the days after the alleged incident, Hicks says school administrators initially sought disciplinary action against her granddaughter, too.

"She's the victim. You want to punish her for something done to her? " Hicks said.

She refers to documents provided by the school about her granddaughter indicating "disciplinary action resulting in change of placement."

Hicks says after she resisted, a school administrator later telephoned advising they were withdrawing pursuit of disciplinary action against the teen girl.

"She's going to be damaged from this and it all could have been prevented if the school had done the things it should have done to prevent the sexual assault," said attorney Maxwell.

"Why were boys in the girls' restroom to begin with? Where was the supervision? That should never have happened to any child," says Hicks.

These are questions to which Hicks demands answers. And in the process, she is determined to speak publicly.

"If I just let it go and not say something about it, it will not stop. I want to make sure that it does stop," Hicks said. "As long as we sit back and keep going on what we are doing and brush it aside, nothing will ever change. But not on my watch, not with my child."

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