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Edisto High School illustration

The families of two special needs students are suing the Orangeburg County School District over allegations the youths were sexually assaulted by a fellow student at Edisto High School.

The students continue to receive mental health counseling, according to attorney Rep. Justin Bamberg.

Meanwhile, the district says it is focused on the well-being of its students.

“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,” Orangeburg County School District Chief of Staff Dr. Jesse Washington said.

“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.”

Bamberg filed two lawsuits against the Orangeburg County School District on Sept. 12, claiming the district was negligent and violated federal laws after repeated encounters happened at the school earlier this year.

A special needs male juvenile student has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, victim under 16 years of age, by the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice, according to Bamberg.

The school district expelled the accused student, the lawsuit claims.

Both lawsuits claim assaults took place, “in the wake of the school’s regular special education teacher taking a leave-of-absence and a substitute taking over the special education class.”

The lawsuits claim that the substitute teacher was “uncertified and inadequately equipped to instruct, monitor, supervise, or otherwise be responsible for students (with) physical and intellectual disabilities.”

According to redacted Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office incident reports, three incidents allegedly occurred around Feb. 20 and Feb. 21 in either the self-contained special needs classroom or other student bathrooms at the school.

A lawsuit for one of the victims alleges that there are five separate occurrences of a forced sex act by the accused student. On at least one of those instances, the victim yelled for help, but no one helped, the lawsuit claims.

“None of these special needs students were supervised or accompanied by an adult during this time,” the lawsuit claims.

One of the students has not returned to school given the traumatic nature of the events, according to the lawsuit.

The other student attempted to return to school for the 2019-2020 school year.

However, according to the lawsuit, the school district allowed the accused student to return to school.

When a school bus picked up the student for school, the student encountered the accused student on the bus, the lawsuit states.

The two rode to school on the bus together, which terrified the student, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the school district violated several of the students’ rights provided by Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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