A 5 year-old boy was held down and sexually assaulted by four classmates in the bathroom of a New York City school, his mother claims in a $10 million lawsuit against the city.
Yenny Valero, 31, said the assault on her son took place just a few weeks before the end of the academic year last June at a Queens public school, when his fellow classmates, all between the ages of six and seven, dragged him into the bathroom and forcibly removed his pants. Valero claims one of the boys put a finger between his buttocks, the New York Daily News reported Friday.
"You never expect this to happen to your child, especially in school. You expect them to go to school and come back safe" Valero told the NY Daily News in an earlier article.
"I couldn't believe this was happening to my son. I thought I was living a nightmare," she said.
The boy, now 6, who wears ankle braces due to balance problems, has suffered severe physical injuries and has post-traumatic stress disorder, according to allegations made in the lawsuit, WPIX reported.
"He's having nightmares, gender identification issues," the mother's lawyer, Sean Serpe, said.
The school district conducted an investigation, but was unable to prove that an attack had taken place. No charges were filed by the school district and the alleged attackers had not been punished.
Detectives called to investigate allegedly dropped the case due to the young age of the suspects.
"Basically, you've got four monsters out there who are getting a free pass," Serpe told the NY Daily News.
"They haven't even been required to receive therapy for their actions," he added.
Valero's other lawyer, Julio Portilla, said that even though authorities were unable to prove the boy's claims, the attacks happened.
"The school failed in its duty and now they are trying to sweep it under the rug," Portilla said.
Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, recently conducted the National Summit on Gender-Based Violence Among Young People, aimed at "supporting efforts across the country to help prevent sexual violence in schools and on campuses."
The U.S. Department of Education, through grants, equips K-12 school districts training for school personnel on sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and mandated reporting of incidents.
Last year in New York, then-former Gov. David Paterson signed into a law the "Dignity for All Students Act," which outlines how school districts are to handle cases similar to Valero's.
According to Point 9 of the Act: "If efforts by teachers and administrators are made to stop the bullying by reporting, documenting, punishing, expelling, or correcting the bullying situation, [then] no teacher or administrator should fear a lawsuit by a victim of bullying."
The provision also notes: "If bullying is reported by parents and the school doesn't react or comply with policies, parents have every right to sue for damages."