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Lawsuit involving rape in Pawtucket school dismissed

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PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — A federal lawsuit alleging a 13-year-old rape victim was not properly protected by school personnel before and after the crime has been dismissed by the judge in the case.

The teenager was sexually assaulted in a bathroom of the Pawtucket Learning Academy (PLA) in June 2016 by Ivander DeBurgo, who was 18 at the time.

DeBurgo, who was not supposed to be allowed in the school, pleaded no contest to first-degree child molestation and was sentenced in 2017 to 25 years in prison with 10 to serve.

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

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

Court records indicate a simple assault and battery charge against Morton was filed as a not guilty plea last February, meaning it would be dismissed if Morton stayed out of legal trouble.

Morton, 75, is now retired.

U.S. District Judge John J. McConnell Jr. granted the defense motion to dismiss the lawsuit, concluding the complaint did not “allege plausible facts that support” the claims teachers and administrators did not adequately protect the victim.

The 15-count lawsuit, which sought $3.5 million in punitive damages and other costs, alleged the defendants failed to protect the victim, violated her civil rights to learn in a safe school, and retaliated against her for filing the complaint.

In 2017, Judge McConnell did order Pawtucket to pay the tuition for the victim to attend a private school.

A spokesman for the city of Pawtucket told Target 12 the safety, well-being and education of the students is the district’s top priority.

George Hovarth, the victim’s attorney, said the family is considering appealing the dismissal.

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

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