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NC5 Investigates: Stories of Abuse

Suspect's Mom Says Schools Ignored Warnings

Kolby Harris, in court Kolby Harris, in court
Terrilyn Harris, Kolby's mother Terrilyn Harris, Kolby's mother
Gilbert Gilbert
Erin Richardson from The Arc of Davidson County Erin Richardson from The Arc of Davidson County

A more complete picture is emerging about the sexual assaults on Metro's special education buses.

Our NewsChannel 5 investigation first revealed Gilbert's story -- how a little 9-year-old was coerced into performing oral sex on an older student.

Now it turns out, the alleged 19-year-old perpetrator -- Kolby Harris -- has a story that's also tragic.

And one advocate tells our chief investigative reporter Phil Williams, the real culprit is the Metro school system.

Harris appeared before a judge Thursday, facing 15 to 25 years in prison for rape of a child.

But documents filed by attorneys on behalf of little Gilbert -- in a lawsuit against the Metro school system -- raise even more troubling questions.

"Everyone in this case is a victim," says Erin Richardson, director of legal advocacy for The Arc of Davidson County. "Clearly Kolby is as much of a victim as Gilbert in this situation."

While Kolby's lawyer argues he isn't competent to stand trial, his mom says he suffers from a laundry list of disorders that caused him to act out in inappropriate ways.

In a sworn affidavit for Gilbert's lawyers, she says that school officials knew that "in January 2005, Kolby had been accused of exposing himself and attempting to compel another young boy named 'Jack' to engage in oral sex on a school bus."

It's an incident disturbingly similar to what would happen with Gilbert two years later.

"Even based on the school having the notice of the potential for this kind of  thing to happen, the school system failed in this regard," Richardson says.

In fact, Kolby's mom says, school officials decided that her son "should be assigned a bus monitor because of his alleged behavioral issues and ... [that] Kolby would not be on a bus with any young students."

And the school system kept that promise, she says, for only a month and a half.

Richardson says, "In this situation the consequence of the school not continuing to provide the bus monitor was that this horrible incident took place with tragic consequences for two children."

And now a mother -- who tried to make sure her troubled son could not hurt another child -- waits to see what the criminal justice system does with him.

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

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