Attorney says ‘district failed’ in special needs sexual assault case

Attorney Justin Bamberg, used to handling high-profile cases, says this is “one of the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Published: Sep. 13, 2019 at 7:51 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Attorney Justin Bamberg is urging school districts across the state to review how special education classrooms are supervised and funded.

The warning comes a day after he filed two lawsuits accusing Orangeburg County Consolidated School District of gross negligence after two students with special needs said they were sexually assaulted and raped multiple times by a classmate at school.

“These children were exposed to one of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen as an attorney,” Bamberg said.

He says in late February, a sexual assault occurred inside a bathroom in the school between three special needs students: two victims and one assailant. All three students have special needs.

Law enforcement got involved and Bamberg said forensic interviews revealed the abuse was worse than the parents even imagined.

“The students had been assaulted over and over again,” Bamberg said. “Orangeburg County Consolidated School District failed these students and these things needs to be addressed. The children were not watched. Unsupervised. The district failed, period. There’s no other way to say it.”

He says the children immediately started therapy and are learning how to deal with triggers.

One of his clients was not able to return back to school because, he explained, during a walk-through, the child wasn’t able to emotionally handle himself when they passed a bathroom where “the worst things” happened to him.

Bamberg also accuses the school of letting the alleged offender ride a bus with the other victim despite the allegations.

“My other client attempted to go back to school this school year, and the student who assaulted him was on the school bus. My client had to ride to school that morning with the person who assaulted him on the bus with him. This was after it all came to light during the investigation and the individual was charged,” Bamberg said.

Both victims now being home-schooled.

The attorney is also raising questions about the substitute who was filling in in the class.

“Her employment file shows she had no certifications whatsoever. It’s not her fault- we don’t fault her for applying for a job in an area where people need work. It’s the school district who made the decision to let her sit in a special needs class, including the day my client was sexual abused in the bathroom.”

Bamberg says his legal team also uncovered an in-district email regarding that substitute teacher.

“Apparently at some point the district felt they overpaid this substitute, and sent an email to take back some of the money back they felt she owed the district. She was only making $15 an hour," Bamberg said."You wonder- is that how she ended up being able to work in the special education class? Is it because they wanted to get their money back? That’s not something we can answer right now but we look forward to getting that answer.”

In a statement, the district’s Chief of Staff Jesse Washington told our sister station WIS in Columbia, “On behalf of the Superintendent and the District, we wish to make it clear that the well-being and safety of all students is a top priority and the District in no way condones or tolerates any inappropriate conduct between students. If information is ever presented to the administration that any such inappropriate conduct may have taken place, the District immediately investigates and handles each situation as appropriate, including notifying law enforcement, if warranted.”

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