ATLANTA, Ga. (WHNT) - A case that gained national attention and outrage was heard in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Tuesday morning.
The 2010 filing became known as the Sparkman rape "bait" case. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the victim by her guardian against members of the Madison County School System. It states that a then-14-year-old special needs girl was raped in a school bathroom after a failed attempt by a teacher's aide to catch another student accused of sexual misconduct in the act.
The hearing began at 9 a.m. Tuesday and lasted longer than expected, according to Huntsville attorney Eric Artrip, whose team represents the victim. The girl's guardian spoke for 15 minutes, then the Department of Justice followed, presenting legal opinion testimony for 10 minutes on behalf of the girl.
The defense then spoke for 25 minutes.
That was all that lawyers expected, but Artrip said judges had several questions and showed interest in the various legal aspects of the case. As a result, the proceeding lasted nearly 90 minutes. There was no ruling made Tuesday. Artrip said he expects to learn a decision in the coming weeks or months.
The plaintiff is suing for the right to sue for damages. Artrip said the plaintiff can already sue for wantonness and neglect, however, they want to press for Title IX and civil rights violations as well, in order to present those claims to a jury and potentially collect damages.
WHNT News 19 has also reached out to attorneys who represent the school system and school administrators in the case. We are awaiting a response.
Background of the case
In 2013, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Putnam ruled that appropriate action was taken by the school and he threw out the federal claims that the incident was a Title IX violation. The judge did not dismiss the state claims of negligence and wantonness against then-assistant principal Jeanne Dunaway and former teacher's aide June Simpson. Court records show Dunaway appealed the state claims in November 2013.
The issue was brought to the forefront in September when the U.S. Department of Justice argued that school administrators showed "deliberate indifference" to the girl. Shortly after, the Madison County Board of Education's attorney said that "no administrator played a role" in the matter.