A jury awarded a 20-year-old special needs woman $28 million six years after she was raped as a Mount Vernon High School student.
The lawsuit centered on the 2011-2012 school year when the woman was a freshman in high school. She has cognitive disabilities that put her intellectual capability on par with a first-grader’s. She began the school year traveling to and from school on an All County Bus. A Mount Vernon school district employee later told her that she didn’t need to take that bus anymore and to start taking the Westchester County’s Bee-Line bus. Her family was never notified.
When her family eventually found out, they told the school that they wanted her to go back on the All County Bus. However, on Dec. 19 2011, she didn’t go home on that school bus. She instead went home with an older boy who raped her at his home.
The woman told her family about what had happened to her, but she was never able to identify her attacker. She was severely bullied the rest of the year and was brutally beaten by other students in a girls locker room at Mount Vernon High School on March 19, 2012. They slammed her head against the floor and a bench, which resulted in a concussion and traumatic brain injury.
Last Friday, the jury ruled that the school district was negligent, but that the bus company was not.
Jordan Merson, one of the woman’s lawyers, said that her testimony was the most emotional one he had ever seen.
“The whole courtroom had tears in their eyes,” he said. “She was wailing. She was trying so hard to keep it together and not to break down, but you could see the pain and agony on her face. I have never seen such a clear display of agony on someone’s face. It was very, very difficult to sit through, and I give her a lot of credit for coming forward. She is a hero for coming forward.”
The Mount Vernon School District said that they respectfully disagree with the verdict in a statement and are currently considering their options of moving forward.