Attorney files $3.5 million lawsuit against city

Attorney files $3.5 million lawsuit against city

PAWTUCKET – The victim of a school rape filed a $3.5 million lawsuit against the city on Tuesday.

Attorney George Patrick Hovarth alleges that school officials failed to protect his client, a 13-year-old girl, from being assaulted by 18-year-old Ivander DeBurgo, who pleaded no contest on May 3 to one count of first-degree child molestation sexual assault.

The suit accuses city and school officials of a “deliberate indifferent response to a student-upon-student sexual assault and rape on school premises, teacher assault, sex-based harassment and hostile environment.” Hovarth claims officials failed to maintain a safe school and that his client suffered multiple incidents of inappropriate contact from others in the school.

The attorney is seeking the $3.5 million as compensatory damages for the teen’s emotional distress, psychological damage, post traumatic stress disorder, medical expenses, loss of enjoyment and other injuries.

He is also seeking a transfer to another school. The lawsuit states that the victim’s Fourteenth Amendment rights to equal protection were violated. The victim, as a disabled person, is in a protected class, it states.

Hovarth wasn’t commenting on the lawsuit this week. A representative for Mayor Donald Grebien’s office said the city doesn’t typically comment on pending litigation. School Supt. Patti DiCenso did not immediately return a call for comment.

The Breeze reported in May that Hovarth had filed a claim of injury notice with the city, a precursor to a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.

Tuesday’s lawsuit claims that students at the Pawtucket Learning Academy inappropriately touched the victim on multiple occasions prior to the rape by DeBurgo on June 17, 2016. An unnamed faculty member is also accused of an incident of inappropriate touching. School officials knew or should have known about the sexual assaults and “did little or nothing to prevent them,” it states.

The suit alleges that the school should have done more to protect the victim from DeBurgo, who was part of a previous violent encounter with a school resource officer at Tolman High School. It states that “no corrective action was taken to protect students from the rapist DeBurgo and to have him removed from the school and to refer the matter to police.”

DeBurgo had already been told to leave the school grounds at the time of the rape, and the grounds should have been secured to prevent entry by unauthorized persons, “especially by DeBurgo,” it states. After gaining re-entry, he was not stopped or prevented from roaming the premises, it reads.

DeBurgo followed the victim into a bathroom, where he committed the rape, then told her, according to the suit, “You better keep quiet, keep your mouth shut or you’ll have to deal with the kids from Prospect (Heights).”

A school employee allegedly encountered both DeBurgo and the plaintiff in the bathroom, but “took no steps to investigate the matter, did not contact the police or notify anyone else in the school or elsewhere and allowed DeBurgo and the minor plaintiff to leave the premises for the night,” states the suit.

School employees knew or should have known that DeBurgo was a “sexual perpetrator” who should not have been allowed back on school grounds.

The defendants should also have known about the “common” and “unchecked” practice of male students subjecting female students to sexual comments, adds the suit.