Justice Department: Sparkman Middle School sting put 14-year-old in harm’s way

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday that a family should be able to sue the Madison County School System after a student raped a teenage girl during a botched sting operation in a boy's bathroom in 2010.

"A school board cannot avoid summary judgment as a matter of law when a school administrator willfully ignores a plan to use a 14-year-old special needs student as bait to catch a student with a known history of sexual and violent misconduct, and as a result, the student is sodomized," the federal brief filed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday read.

The U.S. Department of Justice argued the administration of Sparkman Middle School knew the boy was dangerous and showed "deliberate indifference."  The 16-year-old was also a special needs student.

The brief said a teacher's aide had warned school leadership of the boy's advances toward other girls. Leadership decided the school could not punish the boy because he had not been "caught in the act." When the boy propositioned the 14-year-old girl for sex, that's when the teacher's made a plan to use the girl as bait, according to the brief.

The aide and the 14-year-old girl went to Vice Principal Jeanne Dunaway's office and laid out the plan, the brief said. The girl left the office, found the boy, and agreed to his proposition for sex. That's when the sting went wrong.

There were no adults in bathroom to intervene and the boy sodomized the girl, according to the brief.

The Justice Department went on to say school officials listed the incident in the boy's record as "inappropriate touching," despite medical evidence that pointed to rape.

The Justice Department argues the girl's guardian can sue under Title IX.

"We've gotten a good deal of national attention," said Teri Mastando. Mastando and her firm are representing the plaintiff in this case. "Schools need to be aware of their obligations and that the policies need to be corrected. I certainly hope that's something that comes from this."

The National Women's Law Center also joined the Justice Department and filed a brief supporting the 14-year-old victim, who left the school district after the rape and now lives in another state. "What I find the most gratifying about all of it is that this is not something we sought out," said Mastando. "They came to us and they are filing these briefs independent from us."

The Madison County Board of Education released the following statement to WHNT News 19 in regards to the pending litigation: "The attorneys for the Board of Education and school officials are confident that the 11th  Circuit Court of Appeals will rule in favor of the Board and the administrators.  Our attorneys recommend that we not discuss ongoing litigation."

Read much more on this case at AL.com's website by clicking here.


  • Nuclear Mike

    Sue’em for all you can get out of playing with the life, health and well being of an underage girl in order to catch another underage criminal. This rapist should have been directly dealt with by the proper authorities.

  • elJefe

    How does any rational adult find that plan acceptable? It frightens me that these are people in positions of authority. Furthermore, what is a 14 year old with a “history of sexual and violent misconduct” doing in a public school? Is it not obvious he should be in some sort of alternative school? Have these teachers been fired? I would think that trying to cover up the evidence of the rape of a minor by listing it as “inappropriate touching” would, in itself, be a criminal offense. This is what happens when rules and bureaucracy become more important than the actual safety of the students.

  • Nuclear Mike

    Sue’em for everything you can as it is despicable that a School would use an underage girl to entrap an underage rapist when the authorities should have acted without such a scheme!!!

  • Lisa

    WTF? What’s wrong with the Madison Co. School Board or prinicipal to agree to such a vile thing? I am ashamed of the Madison Co. School Administrators for allowing this. The aide should be fired immediately. No aide should EVER use a special needs child to prove a point.

  • Barbara Spaulding

    How can teachers, administrators, or whoever they are, make these types of decisions to place a special needs child in jeopardy. How could they do this without involving the parents, who I hope would have said no……plus going further and involving the police. I think they would probably call this entrapment if the police were involved. I am appalled that this type of incidents can go on in our school system but am not surprised. And again the Principal turns his head. And this was 4 years ago. So who was in charge then? The principal has been at this school for 20+ years. Based on other situations that happened within the Madison County School System, where the punishment certainly didn’t fit the crime, this is a true situation where the adults that allowed this to happen should be punished to the extend of the law. Child endangerment. I don’t think the whole story is out……there has to be more.

  • Lucy

    Ronnie Blair and everyone else involved should be fired and never allowed to work in a school district again. What is wrong with our school system.

  • Lisa

    On the website Dreamin Demon which is a true crime website, this story is featured and there is a lot of information not being released by the local media. Apparently, the school shredded the young man’s (troubled child) records each year he had racked up a whole lot of infractions including sexual natured ones. The principle turned a blind eye to it the whole time. The father of the girl sued the school district but prosecutors did not file charges against the boy or the teachers and downplayed the incident. Dunaway, the priniciple went as far to say “the girl was responsible for herself when she went inside the bathroom”. The Justice Dept and the National Women’s Law Center filed briefings and the Justice Department sided with the girl.

  • Patricia Street

    They have no respect for special needs children. They should all be fired and never be able to work anywhere near a school again. My great grandson has special needs and they have thrown him out of several schools in Madison County. The teachers don’t want to work with them because they don’t know how. I pray for this young lady and her family. We are all different, we all have different needs.

  • porchhound

    Isn’t that a great example for the other students they are setting? Everyone knows they are responsible but they DENY it and further victimize the child! We need to purge our school administration personnel in this country.

  • Seta Soujiro

    The natives of Alabama (who more than likely make up the authority in this case) have not changed much since 1865.

  • TC

    Wow how stupid! Teachers setting up a “sting?” Too many detective shows maybe? Anyone involved in this had better be fired and not transferred to another school just to continue their idiocies.

  • KB

    I agree TC! Where do these teachers get off doing something like this?? Would they have set up this sting if THEIR daughter was going to be used as bait?? Obviously this boy needs some attention and I hope he gets it soon. Something like this will scar this poor girl for life and they let it happen. Disgusts me! I hope these teachers not only get fired but fined AND incarcerated for what they’ve done. They should have to pay for this girl’s counseling and help for the boy as well.

  • Nuclear Mike

    “”No teachers were in the bathroom to intervene,” the brief reads.
    “She stalled for time. She continually tried to fight him off but ultimately was anally raped by this young man,” Artrip told CNN.
    “It was evident that this had been a severe trauma for her,” said Artrip.”
    Let us ALL hope for a SEVERE TRAUMA for the Madison County School Administrators & Staff!!!!

  • Mark Cumber

    SHAME ON YOU, MADISON COUNTY SCHOOLS!! No one should EVER let their daughters go to school in your district, for you obviously do not care about girls and women, and you coddle young predators! You call yourselves Christians? WELL I CALL YOU EVIL HELLBOUND HYPOCRITES!!

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