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NC5 Investigates: Stories of Abuse

Police: Schools Could Have Prevented Sex Assaults

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Phil Williams confronts school board chair Marsha Warden Phil Williams confronts school board chair Marsha Warden
Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron
Jenna Jenna
Gilbert Gilbert

Who's protecting Metro's special education students?

Our NewsChannel 5 investigation first exposed the sexual assault of two young students on their buses.

Now, police say there are more victims.

Even more disturbing: police say school officials could have prevented these assaults.

For months, school officials have dodged our questions.

Our chief investigator Phil Williams went to the school board looking for answers.

"I'd like to talk to you about the sexual assaults," Williams told board chairwoman Marsha Warden.

Warden suddenly turned and walked away. "I'm sorry. I can't talk about that, OK?"

"Why not?" Williams asked.

Her answer: "They're minors."

All we wanted from school board chairwoman Marsha Warden was to find out what Metro is doing to protect the students on its special-ed buses from being sexually assaulted.

"Can you tell me one thing you've done to protect students," Williams asked Warden.

She asked Metro schools spokesman Woody McMillin, "Would you talk to Phil"

"Well, actually, you're the chairwoman," Williams told Warden.

"Excuse me, sir, I'm getting our meeting started," she replied.

It's the same attitude we've seen since our investigation first revealed the sexual assault of an 11-year-old named Jenna and a 9-year-old boy named Gilbert.

Both cases have led to lawsuits and a federal civil rights investigation.

"It's a matter under litigation," McMillin told Williams.

"I know you're concerned about the lawsuit," Williams said.

McMillin replied, "We'll be glad to talk to you after that's resolved."

While school officials have worried about the lawsuits, police say the molestations have continued.

"This school year the Metro police department has two active investigations involving alleged inappropriate sexual contact of special education students by other students on special education buses," Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said.

According to Aaron, one victim back in December was a 15-year-old girl, allegedly fondled by a 12-year-old boy.

The latest victim, just last week, was an 8-year-old girl who may have been molested by several 7- to 9-year-old boys.

"Not only do they involve children," Aaron said, "but they involve children who are very vulnerable due to their disadvantages."

Yet, police say Metro schools could have prevented these assaults -- if they'd only had monitors on the buses.

"The police department believes that if there had been adults on the bus -- particularly in this situation with 13 students on a short bus -- the events probably would not have occurred," Aaron added.

Williams continued to quiz the school board chairwoman. "Can you tell me one thing you've done to protect the students?"

Warden walked away without answering.

"How many more students have to be molested?" Williams asked.

Still, if Metro schools have any plans to stop the sexual assaults on its special-ed buses, they aren't saying.

"How many more students have to be molested?" Williams asked McMillin.

"I'll be glad to talk to you after the lawsuit is resolved," the spokesman answered.

"Two? Three?"

"I'll be glad to talk to you after the lawsuit is resolved."

"Four? Does the lawsuit have to be resolved to stop the molestation of kids?"

"Phil, I'll be glad to talk with you after the lawsuit is resolved."

Metro faced a federal civil rights investigation over this very issue several years ago.

And, as we first reported, they're facing another one over how they're protecting these vulnerable children.

As to why Metro schools don't have monitors on their special education buses, it's probably a matter of money.

But most other Middle Tennessee school systems have them.

If Metro has ever considered it -- well, again -- they aren't saying.

Watch more videos and follow the stories at NC5 Investigates: Stories of Abuse

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