A woman appears to be reviving a lawsuit alleging negligence by Prince William County Public Schools officials led to several sexual assaults when she was a special education student at Hylton High School.
The woman filed a petition seeking authority to conduct depositions of two current and one former official on June 30 in Prince William County Circuit Court.
Although she appears by name in the petition and a previous lawsuit, InsideNoVa is withholding her name as an alleged victim of sexual assault. The name of the alleged perpetrator is also being withheld because no formal criminal charges could be found against him.
The woman first filed a lawsuit in January 2019 against the Virginia Board of Education, Prince William School Board, C.D. Hylton High School Principal David Cassady, Special Education Director Michelle Roper and then-Superintendent Steven Walts.
The woman alleged that violations of federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, and gross negligence led to “repeated” sexual assaults from November 2016 to January 2017 while she was a student at Hylton. She sought $2 million in damages.
In subsequent court filings, the defendants argued the woman’s claims should be dismissed because she did not adequately show that they were negligent. They denied any wrongdoing in court filings.
The federal claims were dismissed in May 2019. The woman withdrew the lawsuit in March 2021.
In her original lawsuit, the woman says she was a student in Hylton’s special education program because she has intellectual disabilities. The lawsuit does not indicate how old she was at the time, nor the age of the alleged perpetrator.
The woman alleged that around November 2016, a student with “a known troubled record involving harmful, sexual, and abusive behavior towards other children and students” was transferred into the special needs program from another school.
The lawsuit does not give specific evidence of the previous problems.
The lawsuit says that several teachers were opposed to the student’s transfer into the special needs program for safety concerns. She said that one teacher’s concerns were expressed to Cassady, who spoke with Roper.
The lawsuit alleges that the student “did not have any intellectual disabilities but rather just poor grades … and had a history of physical and abusive behavior.”
Roper and Cassady are alleged to have made the decision to allow the student to transfer in based on criteria directed by Walts and the School Board.
The student was placed in the woman’s classes and “repeatedly sexually assaulted” her over the next several weeks, the lawsuit says. The assaults allegedly included “touching [her] breasts, her legs, kissing her, and trying to take her outside of the school building to perform other sexual acts on her,” according to court documents.
The woman told her mother about the assaults in January 2017 and her mother filed a report with the school and the police.
No criminal charges matching the alleged perpetrator’s name could be found in Prince William County Circuit Court or an online, statewide search of courts across the state. A man with a similar name has three traffic violations in Prince William General District Court, but it could not be determined if that is the same individual.
The student was later moved to another school, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit said an unnamed teacher’s aide was fired because of the abuse, but that the school took no responsibility for its role.
The woman was diagnosed with acute stress reaction disorder from the alleged assaults and was still in counseling as of 2019, the lawsuit says.
The woman is now seeking authority under what is called Rule 4:2 of the Virginia Supreme Court to conduct depositions. The rule allows courts to grant petitioners the power to conduct such depositions prior to filing a lawsuit.
Her petition said that Walts, Cassady and Roper are “expected to be adverse parties in future action.”
One reason she is seeking the authority is because she says Walts, who retired July 1, could be moving out of the area.
The woman wants her attorneys to depose the three officials and determine the extent of their knowledge of the alleged perpetrator’s misconduct at his previous school, criteria for student transfers and what could have been done to prevent the alleged assaults.
The petition argues that she cannot quickly bring the lawsuit due to only recently learning that Walts was retiring. She is seeking the depositions to gather testimony and evidence ahead of her filing.
The woman’s petition is set for a hearing at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 20.