CINCINNATI (WXIX) – A local family filed a lawsuit against St. James Elementary and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after claiming the school failed to supervise their 12-year-old student’s school-issued laptop.
The family claimed it led to their child being targeted by a sexual predator.
“The case, in a nutshell, is effectively every parent’s worse nightmare in this climate of technology and issued laptops,” said Austin LiPuma, an attorney for Freking Myers & Reul, who is representing the former student’s family.
He said the 12-year-old student was “targeted and groomed for months by pedophiles through St. James’s unmonitored and unchecked Chromebook.”
The Chromebook was allegedly provided to the student by the school.
According to LiPuma, school officials failed to report the incident to the student’s parents.
“The school and inherently the church possessed personal knowledge that this was going on with at least several different grown men. One of them, another older student, within the St. James network,” he said.
According to LiPuma, several people communicated with the 12-year-old between August 2020 and February 2021.
“What we do know is there is a messaging platform called Discord. Through this website that was not allowed to be accessed according to those on policies arbitrary adults were able to contact solicit and predate on a 12-year-old minor in which the school knew,” he said.
When asked what’s next, LiPuma said they will continue to work to find out who the suspects are in this case.
He said the app allows people to create fake usernames and chat with others on the app making it hard to pinpoint who a real person is.
“She had no idea who these men were, and that is part of the problem. With the vulnerable nature of a child, that’s exactly why there are protections in place. Protections that are issued from the church’s own promulgated handbooks all the way to law. That’s why we try to protect children because they need it,” LiPuma said.
FOX19 NOW reached out to both St. James and the Archdiocese and the principal of St. James responded with a letter they sent to parents:
“You may see reports in the news media about a pending lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and St. James School related to the online activity of a former student. We are unable to comment on active litigation. Please rest assured that the safety of our students, whether in person or online, is of paramount importance to St. James School. While no set of policies or practices is foolproof, we strive to do everything in our power to create a safe environment for your children. When it comes to the internet, safety is necessarily a partnership between parents, students, and the school.
Please join me in praying for a just outcome to this matter and in continuing to make St. James School a faithful, vibrant and safe learning environment.”
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