SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The parents of a 6-year-old girl who was attacked on the playground in South Portland this fall say the school district isn't doing enough to separate their daughter from the 13-year-old boy accused of hurting her. The South Portland School District, meanwhile, says that while the allegations in this case are terrible, families have no reason to be concerned about their children's safety at school.
We are not identifying any of the children in this story because of their ages.
The victim's parents say that back in September, the girl, her mother and her little brother were at the Brown Elementary School playground around 6 p.m. They had been taking part in a kiddie soccer practice, unaffiliated with the school district, just a couple minutes before.
The girl's mother says her kids were playing with a lot of other kids and adults around, when suddenly she heard her son give a terrible scream, and then her daughter did, too. Her daughter, who had bruises on her face and a bloody nose, told her that an older boy had lured her away from other kids, punched her in the face, touched her sexually, and then punched her again before escaping under a fence and riding away on his blue bike.
A 13-year-old boy has been charged with felony unlawful sexual contact and misdemeanor assault. Three days later, the girl's mother learned that the boy accused in this case is still going to school right next door at Mahoney Middle School.
She said, "With this child still being in school, I just constantly have the fear of him showing up again. The anxiety, the guilt, the fear is really taking a toll."
Ron Schneider, the family's attorney, says the girl's parents have no intention of suing the school, but they don't understand why someone accused of something like this can be allowed to go to school so close to the victim.
Schneider said, "Our goal is simple. We want her to be able to feel safe in school. We need to be able to tell her, 'This kid is not 100 yards away from you. He's not at another school 100 yards away from you. He's gone.'"
Suzanne Godin, South Portland's Superintendent, points out this assault did not happen during the school day, nor did it happen during a school-sponsored function. This boy also has not been convicted of a crime, and Godin says she is limited in how she can discipline students under those circumstances.
She says the school has eyes on both of these children the whole time they are at school, and she has worked with the Department of Health and Human services as well as the police to ensure that the boy and girl will not interact during the school day. She says families should be confident their kids are safe at school.
Godin said, "I'm confident in this situation we have put into place the safeguards. Our staff is aware of what they need to be doing to make sure this does not happen during the school day."
The boy is due back in court next month.