CATAWBA COUNTY, NC (FOX 46) - The United States Department of Education has launched an investigation into Catawba County Schools regarding the alleged molestation of a 7-year-old autistic student by a 19-year-old disabled student on a district special needs school bus last year.
FOX 46 Charlotte broke the story about the alleged assault earlier this month, after that boy’s father spoke to reporter Bill Melugin after he said the school district refused to answer his questions in the aftermath, and wouldn’t give him information on the incident until he had hired an attorney several months after the incident.
The original report can be seen here: (WARNING, GRAPHIC VIDEO)
In November of 2016, six months after the alleged sexual assault took place, the boy’s father filed a complaint with the DOE against Catawba County Schools.
According to a letter from the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights dated February 14, 2017, because the OCR determined they have jurisdiction and the complaint was timely filed, they are opening the complaint for investigation.
The letter states that the OCR will investigate three specific allegations.
1) The District failed to promptly and equitably respond to reports and complaints of sexual violence, including the Student’s report of sexual assault involving another student on his school bus on May 24, 2016; and, as a result, students at the School, including the Student, were subjected to a sexually hostile environment.
2) The District discriminated against the Student on the basis of his disability, by failing to provide the Student with special education and related aids and services pertaining to bus transportation, as required by his Individualized Education Program (IEP).
3) The District treated the Student and other students with disabilities differently from non-disabled students, by subjecting them to a longer bus transportation route.
In a statement in reaction to the investigation being launched, the father sent reporter Bill Melugin the following statement:
"After several months of not getting a valid investigation into the assault of my son, I welcome the federal government's help to safeguard my children and others."
A request for comment from Catawba County Schools about the investigation was not returned on Tuesday.