HONOLULU (AP) — Lawyers defending Hawaii's public school system in a lawsuit alleging a special education student raped his female classmate called the girl to testify in the trial Thursday, but didn't ask her any questions about the 2013 incident.
A lawsuit by the girl's mother says that Waianae High School officials didn't do enough to prevent the alleged assault and didn't take the allegations seriously. The lawsuit says a then-senior boy in the then-freshman girl's class raped her in a unisex bathroom.
Assistant state Attorney General Marie Gavigan, defending the state Department of Education, asked mostly yes or no questions about letters the girl wrote in class, such as was one of the letters about a field trip.
Under questioning by her mother's attorney, Michael Green, the girl wasn't able to read a letter she typed in 2013. He says the girl has the intellectual capacity of a second-grader.
Later, during his closing argument to jurors, Green said it was "desperate" for the state to call the mentally disabled girl to the witness stand. "What kind of sick minds are these," he said. "They call her to testify?"
School officials had a duty to keep the two students safe— even from each other, Green said. They knew there was a previous inappropriate touching incident between the two when they went off campus several months before the alleged rape, he said.
A doctor who examined the girl the next day testified that she had tears consistent with a sexual assault. The defense argued those tears could have been caused by something else, such as her scratching herself.
Surveillance footage taken near the bathroom doesn't show that the students were inside at the same time, Gavigan said.
"It is our position there was no sexual assault in the bathroom," Gavigan said in her closing statement. "But something must have happened between these two." That could have been kissing, but it's not known, she said.
Kristin Lindquist, the students' former teacher and a defendant in the lawsuit, testified that when the boy returned from the bathroom he looked "sick," so she asked him what happened. He told her he touched the girl and asked if he would be suspended, she said. She testified that she asked him if he touched her in her private areas and he said yes. It was a mistake to ask such "pointed" questions, Lindquist said, adding that she made the same mistake while questioning the girl about what happened. The girl told the teacher she was raped in the bathroom.
The teacher took immediate action and reported the incident to the dean of students, who called the police and had the boy removed from school, Gavigan told the jury in her closing.
After the mother filed the lawsuit, the education department sued the boy, saying that if the school is found liable, the boy, now 21, should be responsible. The boy's biological mother shook him as an infant, likely causing his disabilities, his adoptive mother testified. He doesn't understand the allegations against him, she said.
Green asked jurors to award the mother $1.4 million in damages and $1.8 million to the girl.
Jurors are expected to begin deliberations on Friday.