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Pawtucket school rape victim appeals judge’s dismissal

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — The teenage victim of a rape in a Pawtucket school bathroom, who also claimed she was sexually harassed by students, assaulted by a teacher and not protected by district personnel, has appealed a federal judge’s decision to dismiss her lawsuit.

The victim, who was 13 years old at the time of the crime, was assaulted in the bathroom of the Pawtucket Learning Academy (PLA) in June 2016.

Ivander DeBurgo pleaded no contest to first-degree child molestation in 2017 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison with 10 to serve.

DeBurgo was 18 years old when he committed the crime and, according to the lawsuit, was known to be violent by teachers and administrators and entered the school illegally a short time before attacking the 13-year-old.

Last month, U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. called the incidents “horrible” in his ruling but granted the motion to dismiss, ruling the complaint did not “allege plausible facts that support” the claims teachers and administrators did not adequately protect the victim.

In a 2017 ruling, McConnell ordered Pawtucket to pay the tuition for the victim to attend a private school.

About two months before the rape occurred, the lawsuit alleged another male student “grabbed [the victim’s] buttocks and attempted to thrust his genital area” on her.

According to the lawsuit, the girl was also assaulted by PLA teacher David Morton, who the filing alleged “smacked and grabbed” her butt.

Morton, who is 75 and has since retired, had his case filed for a year last January after pleading not guilty to a misdemeanor.

The lawsuit was seeking $3.5 million in punitive damages and other costs, alleging the defendants did not do enough protect the 13-year-old student and retaliated against her for filing the complaint.

The victim’s attorney, George Hovarth, said he could not comment on the decision to appeal.

The grounds for the appeal will be submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for First Circuit at a later date.

Defense attorney Jon Anderson has not yet responded to a request for comment about the appeal. In the past, he told Target 12 there were “numerous reasons” to dismiss the complaint, which he said “was without merit.”

After the dismissal, Pawtucket School Superintendent Patti Dicenso said “the Pawtucket School Department and its educators were not responsible” for the incidents.

“The health and safety of our students is the top priority of the Pawtucket School Department,” Discenso said. “What happened to this girl was awful and the young man who assaulted her is in prison.”

Target 12 will have more on this case tonight on Eyewitness News. Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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