Two families filed lawsuits last month against the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind after they say school employees failed to report the sexual assaults on their children to police.
According to the suits, both filed in federal court on Oct. 9, the two children were students at the school in 2009 and 2010 when they were sexually assaulted by a then-14-year-old student. The school’s then-principal, Louis Tutt, was told of the assaults but failed to report them to police as required by law, according to court records.
Police obtained an arrest warrant for Tutt on July 28, 2011, on suspicion of failing to report a sexual assault, a misdemeanor, but the warrant was never served, court records show.
Tutt has since moved to Virginia where he is executive director of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Tutt could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The assaults were not reported to police until May 2011 when the student accused of assaulting the children admitted to staff members that he had assaulted five students on school grounds from 2009 through 2011.
Tutt had left the school the month before the confession and the new principal reported it to the Colorado Department of Human Services, which then contacted the Colorado Springs Police Department.
In a statement, the school’s spokeswoman Diane Covington said that the school is aware of the lawsuits and “we have fully cooperated with authorities.” Reached by phone, Covington said that because of the lawsuits she could not release any additional information. She did not answer questions about school protocol for reporting sexual assaults.
According to Tutt’s arrest warrant, staff members saw the accused attacker having sexual contact with other students and responded by limiting his time alone in the restroom and access to other students’ rooms. Dormitory employees later told police that they made reports of the incidents. In March 2010 a Department of Human Services caseworker investigated reports of sexual contact and decided that they were a case of “sexual curiosity” and did not feel they warranted further action.
There were at least two students, police determined, whose assaults were not reported to either police or the Department of Human Services.
The lawsuits were filed on behalf of the students by their parents. One student is from El Paso County and the other from Pueblo County. Their names and the names of the parents filing the suits have been withheld because The Gazette does not normally identify the victims of sexual assault.
The youngest student mentioned in the lawsuits was 9 years old in February 2010 when he was assaulted in the bathroom. He is blind and couldn’t see his attacker and, since the attacker didn’t speak, he couldn’t recognize his voice. The student reported the assault to his father who then contacted Tutt, according to the lawsuit. Tutt told the father that there was nothing he could do because the attacker had not been identified, but promised the staff would be more vigilant. Tutt made no written report of the assault, according to the lawsuit and Tutt’s arrest warrant.
The other student mentioned was 15 years old when, according to the suit, he was sexually assaulted repeatedly over a period of several months in 2009, according to the lawsuit. The complaint does not detail if staff members knew of the assaults at the time.
In both lawsuits, the families allege that some staff members are unclear about how to report sexual assaults. Some considered them to be confidential while others felt they had to report it to their supervisor. Also, there are conflicts about the “extent and type of training” staff members receive about child abuse reporting, according to the lawsuits.
The families are represented by attorneys from the Gasper Law Group in Colorado Springs. Along with the school, the families named Tutt and the school’s board of trustees in the suits. Both families requested jury trials to decide compensatory and punitive damages.