ROCKWALL, Texas — Six families have filed a lawsuit against a North Texas school district, alleging that an "unauthorized program" allowed a sixth-grade boy access to a kindergarten classroom, where he's accused of sexually assaulting girls.
The lawsuit against the Rockwall Independent School District states the incidents happened during the 2021-2022 school year at Amy Parks-Heath Elementary School
According to the lawsuit, a program set up by the school's principal, Lindy Lewis, had allowed sixth graders from Cain Middle School into kindergarten classrooms to help the younger students with reading and math.
The parents of the kindergarteners were not made aware that sixth graders would be interacting with their students, according the lawsuit. The suit states that the program happened over the course of "many months."
"These parents were under the impression that their kids were safe in school, as they trusted [Rockwall ISD] and relied on the representations of Amy Parks-Heath as being an exceptional campus," the lawsuit stated.
The sexual assault reports began in April 2022, according to the suit, after a kindergarten boy told his father about what he witnessed happened to a girl. The assault was reported to the students' teacher, Ashley Rankin, the lawsuit states.
Rankin then began reporting the alleged incidents to school officials and had sought help on how to address them, according to the lawsuit. She, along with officials, learned that multiple girls had been allegedly sexually assaulted by the same sixth grader, the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, after the sixth grader was questioned and admitted to the incidents, the district's human resources director, Mark Speck, "insisted that the perpetrator board the same bus home that day with some of the kindergarten girls that the sixth grader admitted to sexually assaulting."
Charles E. Soechting, Jr., the attorney representing the victims' families, told WFAA that, "the specifics of what have happened, what happened to them. They are known. They have talked it through. And so, it's not like it's an unknown injury or an unknown assault, but the children are just processing it as they can."
"Unfortunately, they're very young, but they still have emotional issues and physical injuries associated with it," said Soechting.
The lawsuit states that the sixth grader was also allowed back onto the campus for a picnic event.
The families in the lawsuit accuse the school of trying to cover up the incidents by allowing "the perpetrator to continue roaming freely even after Rankin had sounded the alarm bells that she needed help," along with not letting parents know about what happened.
Rankin was forced to resign as a teacher at the school, according to the lawsuit.
While the lawsuit states that at least five girls reported sexual assaults, plaintiffs do not know the total number of girls who may have been abused, according to the families' attorneys from Simon Greenstone Panatier, PC and Fortenberry Firm PLLC.
The attorneys said the sixth grader has been prosecuted by the Rockwall County District Attorney's Office.
The families in the lawsuit are seeking a jury trial.
WFAA reached out to Rockwall ISD for a comment. Here was the district's response:
"Rockwall ISD has not been served with the lawsuit. Regardless, the District does not comment on pending litigation."