Lawsuit says PPS could have done more to prevent alleged abuse
The family of a child with a disability is suing Portland Public Schools for $7.5 million for failing to protect against alleged sexual abuse by her school aide.
The complaint, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Oct. 30, argues the school district was negligent in not creating a protocol for the girl's toileting needs and failing to protect her from child abuse.
The man accused of molestation is Brett Christy-Hamilton, reportedly the son of former Lincoln High School Principal Peter Hamilton. Christy-Hamilton was acquitted of the charge March 1 and announced his intention in May to sue the district for lost wages and for ruining his reputation.
Christy-Hamilton is not a defendant in the family's lawsuit.
The legal battles swirl around a November 2015 incident when the child was 7 years old. The girl, who is not named in the lawsuit documents except under a pseudonym, has cerebral palsy, which for her manifests in part as a severe speech impediment and a seizure disorder. The judge's decision in the criminal case hinged in part on the girl's ability to communicate.
Due to the sensitivity of sexual assault, Pamplin Media Group is not naming the alleged victim, her parents or the Southeast Portland school where the complaint occurred.
Christy-Hamilton's job was to assist her with toileting and other aspects of her school day.
"While alone in the restroom with (the girl), Christy-Hamilton touched and/or groped (her) uncovered vaginal area and buttocks and taunted her when she said she would tell her parents," reads the complaint prepared by attorney Hollis McMilan. The trial attorneys for the case would be from Crew Janci, a Portland law firm specializing in child abuse cases. The same firm has represented clients in landmark cases against Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church.
Christy-Hamilton was indicted on July 15, 2016, eight months after the allegations made against him put him on paid administrative leave.
According to The Oregonian, Christy-Hamilton and two other paraeducators met with administrators in 2013, demanding that they not be required to assist children, including those of the opposite sex, with the toilet.
The lawsuit claims it will take approximately $500,000 in counseling and other medical intervention for the child to process the incident, but she will never be whole. For her physical, mental and emotional injury, as well as permanent psychological trauma, the suit asks for $2 million. The suit then triples the requests under three other claims for a total of up to $7.5 million.
McMilan was not immediately available to comment on the complaint.
A criminal court has a very high standard of evidence, requiring guilt to be established beyond a reasonable doubt. A civil court case, such as this one, has a lower standard, so despite the acquital, a court may find that the incident occurred and PPS is liable for any resulting damages.
The 32-year-old Christy-Hamilton is also expected to sue Portland Public Schools, and officials there said no settlement with him is pending.
"There are no settlements expected in the short term," said PPS spokesman Dave Northfield. "Watch for more filings."