A Hawaii island woman has sued the state Department of Education and Board of Education for negligence and violation of federal civil rights laws for allegedly failing to intervene when officials learned her special needs grandson was sexually abused by an education assistant at his school.
Debra Ann Kimokeo, the plaintiff, said her grandson is a “special-needs individual with severe, permanent intellectual and cognitive impairment” who was assaulted by the aide between December 2018 and March 2019, according to the lawsuit that was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for Hawaii.
Stanton Caluag worked as an education assistant at Kealakehe High School, according to the suit, and was tasked with working directly with special education students and teachers, and providing direct one-on-one support to special education students.
The alleged incidents took place between Dec. 2018 and March 2019 at Kealakehe High.
Ku’u Kauanoe/Civil Beat
He was arrested and charged with third-degree sexual assault in March 2019 in connection with the incidents, the suit says.
According to the lawsuit, Caluag was sentenced to a year in jail, five years of probation and ordered to register as a sex offender and “stay away from children.” According to the plaintiff’s attorney, Peter Hsieh, Caluag took a plea deal and agreed to plead guilty to the charge.
Online records show Caluag was born in 1954 and that he was sentenced in June.
The lawsuit named Caluag as well as unidentified “John Does,” governmental entities and the DOE and Board of Education.
The suit alleged that education officials did not conduct a criminal background check on Caluag and failed to confirm he had the right credentials for the job.
“We believe they didn’t vet the educational assistant. We’re not even sure he was even qualified to work as an educational assistant,” Hsieh said. “They didn’t supervise him, train him, and there was no sufficient oversight to watch and make sure he was doing his job.”
DOE spokeswoman Nanea Kalani said the department can’t comment on pending litigation. She said that the DOE conducts background checks of all applicants prior to employment.
The lawsuit contended that Caluag, a Kailua-Kona resident, sexually abused the victim — who is now in his early 20s — at school and after school, including caressing his face, putting his hands in the boy’s pants, making inappropriate facial expressions and committing sexual penetration.
Another education assistant saw what Caluag was doing and told the teacher and school administration, the lawsuit said.
Despite this, officials failed to step in, fire Caluag or notify law enforcement, it added.
“Many times when the EA was exhibiting inappropriate behavior with our client, (it was) observed by others,” Hsieh, who is co-counsel in this case with attorney Michael Green, said. “The school was put on notice but nothing was done, and nothing was done for awhile until they were caught.”
The school eventually ended up contacting the boy’s family in March 2019, according to the lawsuit, at which point the police began an investigation.
The lawsuit alleged a violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, violation of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act and other counts of negligence, negligent training and supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Read the lawsuit here:
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