A sixth-grade student at Rockwall Independent School District allegedly sexually assaulted at least six kindergartners during visits to another RISD school that were part of an unauthorized program.
Parents of six kindergarten girls filed a federal lawsuit against RISD, kindergarten teacher Ashley Rankin, Amanda Rochell Elementary Principal Lindy Lewis, and the sixth grader’s parents.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, alleges the unauthorized program was created and implemented by Lewis without parental knowledge or consent.
The parents of the Plaintiff kindergarteners were never informed that a 6th grader had access to their children. Despite the many mechanisms for transmitting information, including daily folders, group messaging apparatus, emails and the like – neither the administration nor the district informed the kindergarten parents that a 6th grader was coming into the kindergarten classroom for any purpose.
These parents were under the impression that their kids were safe in school…
The program, which lasted several months during the 2021-2022 school year, bused sixth grade students from Cain Middle School to the kindergarten classrooms at Amy Parks-Heath Elementary School and allowed the older students to “help” the younger students with reading and math.
“It is clear that Amy Parks Heath intends to persuade the public that the school is exceptional and that the students are protected and safe while in their custody,” the lawsuit states.
However, the parents of the victims said this is a “self-created persona” and inaccurate.
According to the lawsuit, the assaults “were completely avoidable and foreseeable events made possible through reckless policy and programming decisions at the administrative level.”
The suit explains the reports of sexual assault began in April 2022 after a young male student told his father he had seen “an older kid… touching his female kindergarten peers on their ‘bottoms.’” Immediately, the little boy’s father emailed Rankin and demanded she call him, which she did, so he could report the incident.
The child did not tell Rankin while he was in class because she was wearing her “Mickey Mouse ears,” and her “Mickey Mouse policy” meant the children were not to “bother her while she was wearing her ‘Mickey Mouse’ ears,” the lawsuit states.
According to the suit, Rankin—whose teacher certificate expired in 2018—was forced to resign over the incident.
“The perpetrator [was allowed] to continue roaming freely even after Rankin had sounded the alarm bells that she needed help,” the suit alleges.
The suit claims that even after the sixth grader admitted to his actions, the school district permitted him to ride the bus with some of the victims he admitted to assaulting and return to the school to attend a picnic.
Charles E. Soechting, Jr., the attorney representing the victims’ families, told WFAA that, “the specifics of what have happened, what happened to them. They are known. They have talked it through. And so, it’s not like it’s an unknown injury or an unknown assault, but the children are just processing it as they can.”
“Unfortunately, they’re very young, but they still have emotional issues and physical injuries associated with it,” Soechting continued.
According to the victims’ attorneys, while at least five girls reported sexual assaults, the exact number of girls who were sexually assaulted is unknown.
The suit claims the district did not attempt to find other potential victims and, instead, tried to cover up the incidents and failed to inform parents of the reported assaults.
Rockwall ISD human resources director Mark Speck allegedly instructed the school counselor, Kristen Holder, to “pretend as though nothing happened the next day at school.”
The sixth grader was prosecuted by the Rockwall County District Attorney’s Office; however, parents of the victims are seeking a jury trial against the district, principal, teacher, and perpetrator’s parents.
In a statement from RISD, their Chief Communications Officer Renae Murphy told Texas Scorecard, “Rockwall ISD has not been served with the lawsuit. Regardless, the District does not comment on pending litigation.”
However, according to court documents, court summons were issued to the defendants, including RISD, and parents of the victims.
As of publication, the victims’ attorney did not respond to Texas Scorecard’s request for comment.
The full lawsuit can be viewed here.