Boston pays $650,000 to settle student sex assault allegations

Parents say superintendent failed to protect their daughters

THE CITY OF BOSTON is paying $650,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by five sets of parents who alleged that the school principal at the Mission Hill K-8 Pilot School in Jamaica Plain “failed to take sufficient steps to protect [their daughters] from sexual and physical assaults committed by another student.”

The acts, which were all allegedly perpetrated by one male student, occurred in 2015 and 2016.  The lawsuit was filed in 2017 and the case was settled just last week and approved by the court on Monday.  The settlement was first reported by Universal Hub.

In the Boston schools, principals play a key role in dealing with allegations of student misconduct. They are expected to deal with incidents at their schools and report them to the school system’s central office. In the Mission Hill case, the parents alleged in their lawsuit that they brought their concerns to the principal, Ayla Gavins, who took no action and failed to bring in officials from the central office. The parents also alleged that Gavins fired a teacher who disobeyed her order not to alert the Department of Children and Families.

One allegation in the lawsuit was that one of the girls was digitally penetrated by the male student. For several months following the incident, the parents alleged, the girl remained in the same classroom as the alleged perpetrator and “lived in fear of being assaulted again,” according to court documents.

Court records also indicate that the same male student groped the genitals and breasts of another girl and threatened her at another time with physical violence if she didn’t expose her genitals to him. Similar incidents were reported with the other girls.

In response to a motion by the city of Boston to dismiss the complaint in 2019, Judge Allison Burroughs wrote: “The Court finds the Defendant’s actions, as set forth in the amended complaint, shock the conscience” if shown to be true.

The five sets of parents wound up with a total of $360,666, or 55 percent of the total settlement amount.  The rest, $289,334, went to their lawyers.

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Gavins could not immediately be reached for comment.

In the settlement agreement, the Boston Public Schools did not admit any wrongdoing. Earlier this month, the two co-leaders of the Mission Hill School, Geralyn McLaughlin and Jenerra Williams, were placed on paid administrative leave after parents complained to Superintendent Brenda Casselius about misconduct at the school, according to an article in the Jamaica Plain News.