Parents of Autistic Student File Lawsuit Against CUSD over Sexual Assault

According to a complaint filed against Clovis Unified School District; an intellectually disabled autistic student was allegedly sexually assaulted by another student on two separate occasions during school hours at Clovis East High School.

The parents of the student have now filed a lawsuit against Clovis Unified with the Fresno County Superior Court for damages that include: Sexual Battery, Negligence, Negligent Hiring, Negligent Supervision, Violations of the Bane Act, Gender Violence, Violations of the Unruh Act, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

The student will not be named due to the fact that she is a minor and is referred to as J.R. in the complaint. She is a special needs student and classified as intellectually impaired. She is described to have the learning ability of a kindergartener, equivalent to a 5-year-old.

In the complaint, the first assault occurred in November 2018, during school hours when J.R. was left unsupervised. During that time, another student named “Josh,” led her outside and into the bushes, between school buildings. “Josh” allegedly forced J.R. to take off her pants, which she resisted. In addition, he coaxed her into taking off her shirt and bra, after which he touched her breast without her consent.

He then forced J.R. to perform oral sex on him. After the assault, J.R. exited the bushes, with no top on, disoriented and confused.

The Learning Director of the Reagan Education Center Special Needs Program, Monica Castillo, witnessed J.R. exiting the bushes.

Castillo questioned both students about the incident; J.R., who is unable to have more than a minute of conversation, was given a five-day suspension along with the other student in question.

Castillo reported to campus police of the incident, followed by a 10-sentence report.

The complaint stated negligence on Castillo’s part for failing to appropriately inform J.R.’s parents, contact social services or to report sexual assault which could have determined if J.R. needed to receive a rape kit.

The second assault occurred in January 2020. At this time, “Josh” again assaulted J.R. by touching her inappropriately in the school hallway. This was witnessed by another special needs student who reported the incident.

“If this were instead of a special needs girl, imagine a situation where it was their star-student who has a scholarship to go to Berkeley. If she came out of a bush looking disheveled or disoriented without her clothes, one would not immediately assume she had consensual sex,” said Omar Qureshi, the attorney representing J.R., “You would say this is in the middle of the school day, she looks disoriented. Maybe something bad happened here, you’d investigate.”

The age of legal consent in the State of California is 18 years old. J.R. was only 16 years old when the first assault occurred and 17 years old when the second incident occurred.

“As a school district, we take seriously any allegations that there is inadequate supervision of our students,” says Kelly Avants, CUSD spokesperson, “I am not able to comment about the specifics of this suit or its allegations.”

The investigation is still ongoing. There will be another investigation diving deeper into the district’s training programs.

To read the full formal complaint, click here.

Tori Lavon is a Multimedia Journalist from Reedley, California. She received her Bachelor's in Mass Communications and Journalism with an emphasis in Broadcasting from California State University, Fresno. Currently, she is a radio intern at One Putt Broadcasting. On occasion, Tori has the opportunity to be on-air with talent. She is getting her start in media. She has a passion for reporting, photography, and videography. Tori also has a love for art; she loves to draw, paint, and does pottery on the side. One day she hopes she can be on-air talent at a radio station as well.