Watch Live: CBS Sports presents (8) Auburn vs. (17) Texas A&M

School board attorney on Sparkman Middle rape: “No administrator played a role”

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The Madison County Board of Education said student safety is its first priority, and added incorrect information has been circulated by the news media about a 14-year-old student's rape at Sparkman Middle School in 2010.

The school board and its attorneys spoke at a news conference Tuesday.  The school board had been mostly silent prior to this.

"The uproar fueled by misinformation has been hurtful to the people involved and the functioning of the schools," said School Board President Jeff Anderson.  "The Madison County School System believes in a commitment of excellence to each student.  Student safety has been, and will always be, a top concern for us."

The school system has come under heavy criticism in the past week due to the case.  A 16-year-old raped a 14-year-old girl during a botched sting operation in a boy's bathroom in 2010.  Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief in support of the girl's family, saying they should be able to sue the school board and school administrators in a civil matter.

Prior to this, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Putnam had ruled in favor of school administrators.  Mark Boardman, the school board's lawyer, said the judge was the only independent party to review the matter.

"Judge Putnam found no evidence of any violation [by school administrators]," Boardman said.  "The judge found they took proper action to protect not only this student, but also all students."

Boardman said Sparkman administrators immediately notified law enforcement when they learned the 14-year-old student had been raped by a 16-year-old student.

"No administrator played any role in this at all," Boardman said firmly when pressed.

"They took steps to protect the 14-year-old girl when she returned to school.  She experienced no further harassment," Boardman said.

"This was a misguided attempt, perhaps foolish.  The aim of [the aide] was in the right manner. She was trying to help the student, she just did it in the wrong way," Boardman said.  "The policies say we must protect the individuals. Unfortunately, her attempt to do so was misguided."

"Much of what has been printed about this case was taken from a plaintiff's perspective, not Judge Putnam's interpretation of the case," Boardman said.  "And I stress, he is the only independent party to review this case."

"We remain confident that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will affirm the ruling and find in favor of the school system and the school administrators," Boardman added.

The attorneys for the guardian of the girl released this statement Tuesday night:

The Plaintiff and her attorneys are disappointed with the statements made earlier today by the Madison County Board of Education. The Board stated how hurtful the media reports have been to the administrators involved and to the Madison County School system, but did not accept responsibility for the failed policies that caused this tragic situation.

The Board’s policy that no harasser would be punished unless he was “caught in the act,” created the very situation that allowed a boy, with a long history of sexual and violent misconduct at school, to roam the school’s halls freely, harassing girls to have sex with him in the bathroom. Because of this policy, a teachers’ aid told the assistant principal she was sending this girl into the bathroom to catch this boy in the act; where, instead, the girl was raped.

The Department of Justice and the Department of Education reviewed this case and said that the lower court got it wrong. It got the facts wrong; it got the law wrong.

The Board's attorney also failed to mention that the federal judge did not throw out the state law claims for negligence and wantonness against one of the administrators.

This is the exact same behavior we have seen all along from the Board: from the day of the rape, until the time they shredded the boy's records, until they appealed the fact that Judge Putnam found evidence to support the state law claims against Ms. Dunaway.

The Plaintiff and her attorneys remain committed to seeing all the facts come forward and providing her with a day in Court.

Read more about the case here.

View the 2013 summary judgement here.

View the Department of Justice brief here.

19 comments

  • Nuclear Mike

    The whole Nation is now watching the results as the Madison School System is about to “cough up” a few million dollars+ to even come close to making up for such a horrible decision that lead to such a horrible crime!!!

  • SportMom

    ” Boardman said. “The judge found they took proper action to protect not only this student, but also all students.”
    BULL! I read the entirely ruling, the judge found no such thing, their actions were referred to as foolish, negligent, wanton, … but did not rise to the level of illegal, or violating Federal Title IX. The summary judgement in favor of plaintiffs was based on technicalities regarding flow of federal funds, gov.employee immunity, ,,, which is no way similar to declaring they took proper action.
    At the very least, they are guilty of incompetence – FIRE THEM !

  • Tim

    Sounds like all they care about is saying its not their fault, their not responsible…… If it were one of my daughters I would be holding the all Madison school district administrators accountable. This is a horrible thing that happened to the girl. For Gods sake take some accountability for your actions. She was at school , Administrators had a duty to ensure she was protected and they didnt…

    • Nuclear Mike

      Correct!!! The whole Nation is now watching the results as the Madison School System is about to “cough up” a few million dollars+ to even come close to making up for such a horrible decision that lead to such a horrible crime!!!

  • Brenda Patterson

    Madison County School Board: Don’t try and wash your hands of this situation. You’re responsible for the hiring and practices of those you employ. The behaviors and decision making processes at Sparkman Middle School constitute an atrocity that should not be passed onto one low level employee, obviously a scape-goat for a poorly managed, controlled, and operated system. Administrators must be held accountable and responsible for what happens at their schools.

  • Ordell Robbie

    This is why Tenure must be abolished. The barrier to entry in the teaching and school administration career path is too low. These people are totally unaccountable. The legal system is protecting the county from a high dollar award. Not only should people be fired but licenses should be surrendered and people should go to prison for reckless endangerment of a child. Bad teachers and apathy has ruined this young woman’s life. The boy in question might have been saved if administrators had dealt with the problem instead of sweeping it under the carpet. Now he is probably past the point of redemption. I wonder about his parents. Where were they when this was all being played out?

  • Bob

    This only happened 4 years ago. Where was the outrage then? You folks are amazing. Day late and a dollar short as usual.

  • Nuclear Mike

    Now more than ever the School Board needs to step up for accept the responsibility of those they hire & train for allowing such a horrible crime to be committed under such a stupid scheme involving underage children on school property.

  • T Ray

    Heads in the ADMIN need to roll. Otherwise MCBOE is no better than the current WH Administration where there is no responsibility or accountability

  • Ordell Robbie

    Call your congressman or senator. This makes the state look bad on a national level. Send some downward pressure.

  • Rev

    According to what little I read from the linked investigation documents, the offender had a long history of very dangerous behavior. Independent of the actual event in question, a child with such a history of behavior and assault attempts should never have been allowed in a public school setting. The administrators are negligent in not mitigating a dangerous threat to the schoolchildren.

  • William Increditor Bailey

    If you’re honestly angry, first sign this petition. Then join the Facebook Group “Accountability for Madison County Schools.” It’s clear that the leadership of the school system aren’t going to do anything until they are forced to.

  • Michael Marley

    The psychic effect in this situation is the belief among a group that the person would do harm under certain stress. No action could be taken against this common belief in administration without evidence to substantiate or validate the belief about the person. The engineering is found in creating the social capacity for harm to be done and in such a way it would keep the educators out of trouble by arranging an audience who will serve as witness to an arranged crime and placing the bait and victim at a monitored place to perform for spectators. Can we blame the bait for changing locations that were pre-described if her goal was to please the authority by demonstrating she could get the evidence, like an assignment? The administration needed a crime so that they could act on policy and worked to create the crime, having witness arranged to validate the crime, and then intent to use this information as constructed in an effort to harm to a person. Having these people placed outside the bathroom to testify to some crime they were asked to witness after it was arranged by other party is compared to giving a pet food and wondering if they will drool or consume first, laying in wait for this observation to be made about the selected food or bait. The topic of this young man was realized by administration prior to the actions taken by educators. The problem of the topic was answered by an assortment of educators who attempted to collect through engineered effort what was needed to take further action against this labeled youth. The educators led two students together having some prior authorization and design from staff, that ended in some bad result when the assigned witnesses were outside the wrong bathroom when it happened.

    If the crime is arranged and the witnesses who are also arranged know that the crime is arranged, does it make them false witness when they testify this youth acted alone?

    I want to comment that the system protected these people with purpose, it allows them to make mistakes as educators and students. This is important if the situation is learned from to take better action in the future, and not in the means of baiting, but avoiding the use of bait with the substitution of education. I believe that this scenario and speculation leads to a lot of questions that may be unfounded in fact but interesting to explore in totality. Of course the determination made by higher authority satisfies my questions about the incident and its further consideration. A public position higher authority took against the incident I interpret as stating that nothing out of the ordinary among promiscuous students happened and this I believe a reference that it happens a lot in school systems and in most incidents of this type these under the radar meetings for sex are not engineered or baited. While I trust they made the right decision so that a mistake could be learned from, I do wonder if it is the school or just a few educators who might need some further education about baiting with students. Perhaps the answer is access to a school officer or some other central employee to lead them where these concerns could affect the school after a report is made of similar nature. Propositioning for sex, something this young man may have just learned in his life and brought to school with him leading to another student suggesting he propositioned her, should be educated that it is not wanted on campus rather then baited to action. I believe an officer would have told these educators to have a talk with the young man after the report or provided some educational materials for a classroom setting to address this very concern as either direct to him in private or indirect by educating his class with examples of trouble caused for the students who engage in this type of activity both at school and in the real world.

    When engineering can be said speculatively of both parties in this incident, and blanketed education on campus could yield insight to students of how to further abuse the system, how is it solved where education is the solution and without harming any parties involved? A knowledgeable contact on campus, like police officer or a phone number for advice and consultation, could have solved the problem entirely and not harmed any parties involved to include educators.

    This girl will be known as having been raped for the rest of her life, and the boy a rapist, because this school engineered a situation where both would carry this label after they planned to watch them perform the act they suspected they would be performing in the bath room unattended. The bathroom was also used to brush of the performance as being some place without legal or moral concern on school grounds. I say performance, because indeed that is what was being orchestrated for the teacher spectators who would presumably break into the bathroom the savior while they watched or listened to her scream for help from outside and giving the setup parties both witness and material evidence to have the victims removed from campus or imprisoned as a result of their effort taking advantage of some disposition in those selected for the effort in engineering. This young man was a target for a spectacle created by speculation that yielded some satisfaction to those organizers after certain result was realized to match the speculation; and the blame for the incident placed squarely on the young man as being some type of offender when the sex was consensual by design in that manner for presentation to the witnesses. Why did they call a situation they engineered rape when her part was consensual from the meeting and continue to do so along the proper pathing for reports of this nature on school grounds? They used the spectacle to initiate the process administration had planned or process they knew of when material evidence was made available by design , why else would they declare a lack of evidence before hand. In my opinion, this young man is not guilty of rape.

Comments are closed.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.