The mother of a Hilton Head Island Middle School special-needs student has filed a lawsuit against the Beaufort County School District, alleging a teacher's aide in her son's class sexually assaulted him last year.
Rita Weddle filed suit against the district in Beaufort County Court in February on behalf of her teenage son, according to court records. The lawsuit alleges the aide, identified only as "John Doe," fondled her mentally disabled son and forced the boy to touch his genitals over his clothes, the suit says.
Attempts Friday to reach Weddle and attorney Richard Peacock for comment were unsuccessful.
Weddle reported the alleged abuse to the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office last June.
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Sheriff's Capt. Bob Bromage said Friday the allegations weren't substantiated after an investigation and were considered unfounded.
In March, attorneys for the school district denied the allegations and asked that the lawsuit be dismissed, according to the court filings.
According to the suit, the aide took Weddle's son to the aide's home about 10 times during the 2013-14 school year without other students or teachers present. On some of those occasions, the aide fondled Weddle's son, the lawsuit said.
Weddle learned of the trips to the aide's home after an awards ceremony at the school in May 2014, when the aide said to Weddle her son had seen his "trophy room." Weddle then asked her son about the aide, and her son told her he had been to the aide's house about 10 times, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claims that the special-education teacher knew each time the aide brought Weddle's son to his home. It said the school had a "duty to thoroughly investigate any inappropriate conduct" between the aide and student, but failed to do so.
The lawsuit says the school district was negligent by failing to supervise Weddle's son, the aide and the teacher, and allowing the aide to take her son to the aide's home during school hours.
Weddle's lawsuit said her son suffered mental anguish from the incidents. She seeks damages to compensate for her son's counseling, and punitive damages.
District spokesman Jim Foster said Friday the lawsuit had no merit.
"Based on our investigation, we don't think the allegations are true," Foster said.
The lawsuit has been moved to alternative dispute resolution, which is scheduled to begin in September, according to court records.
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- School district faces sexual harassment lawsuit, June 6, 2014