Lawsuit claims Leechburg Area School District failed to prevent student from raping another

LEECHBURG, Pa. — A lawsuit claims the Leechburg Area School District failed to prevent a student from raping another student during an after-school program.

“The family has been devastated by this,” said Attorney Amy Mathieu.

This heinous crime happened in 2021 inside the Leechburg Middle/Senior High School. According to the lawsuit, it was during an after-school program when a 13-year-old boy raped a 13-year-old girl in a men’s bathroom.

“According to the cameras in the hallway, they were in the bathroom together for 24 minutes while the attack occurred,” said Matthieu. “Not a single teacher or administrator or another student walked by in the hallway during those 24 minutes. You can see him leave the bathroom on the video and then my client leaving, crying after that.”

Amy Mathieu represents the girl and her family. She says her client told a classmate who then reported what happened to a guidance counselor.

“The principal interviewed my client with her parent present and made remarks,” said Mathieu. “Remarks such as, ‘Are you sure this is really what happened? Your story is different than the perpetrator’s story. Are you sure you’re not just mad at your boyfriend?’”

The Leechburg Police Department took DNA samples from the girl’s clothing. and it matched the boy’s DNA. He was charged with four felony counts including rape plus one misdemeanor. According to the lawsuit, during an adjudication hearing at the Juvenile Court of Common Pleas in Armstrong County, he admitted to sexually assaulting his classmate. He ended up taking a plea deal and did not serve any jail time.

Now, the family wants to see the school held accountable for allowing this to happen under their watch.

“I think what’s alarming to me is that there was no way to know what students were still on the property,” said Mathieu. “There was no sign-in sheet. There was no way for parents to communicate to the school who was staying after school during this program. So if you don’t know what students are staying, how do you know which students are missing? And so for two students to be missing for nearly half an hour during this half an hour program is alarming that no one came looking for them. No one was trying to find out where they were when they didn’t show up to the classrooms where they were supposed to be doing work.”

The lawsuit also outlines a history of concerning incidents dating back to 2016, including reports of hazing on the boys’ basketball team, a student waving a loaded gun at other students in the same bathroom this girl was raped, and a substitute teacher touching girls inappropriately.

“The parents want justice for their daughter,” said Mathieu. “They want other parents in the school district to know what has been going on. They want other parents to know whether this is a safe place for kids or not. It’s the school’s burden to protect students while they’re at school while they’re in their care and custody as if a parent were taking care of these children. It has become clear that the school has failed to fulfill that duty, and as a result, my client was brutally assaulted in a bathroom on school property during a school-sanctioned after-school program.”

Channel 11 reached out to the law firm representing the school district but did not receive an immediate response. An attorney with the firm told our Trib partners they can’t comment on “active litigation.”

It’s not clear whether the school has implemented any new policies since the incident in 2021.

“We don’t have any discovery in the case as of yet, so we don’t know of any policies that have changed between 2016 and now,” said Mathieu. “In a public way, I have not seen any notable changes since the 2016 incident or since the rape of my client in 2021. I am unaware of any changes, but we will have more information on that once the school participates in the discovery process of the lawsuit.”

Mathieu says they submitted an amended complaint after the district said there was no way they would have been able to predict an incident like this. Mathieu says that’s why they added the allegations from 2016 to the lawsuit to show a pattern of sexual assaults occurring and other violent incidents.

The district also claims they have sovereign immunity to civil lawsuits based on negligence.

“That is true for most cases in Pennsylvania,” said Mathieu. “In most cases, public entities including public schools and school districts have sovereign immunity when it comes to lawsuits based on negligence. However, one of the exceptions to that sovereign immunity is the sexual abuse of minors.”

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