Apr 22, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
Skaneateles Central School District has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court earlier this month over an alleged sexual assault incident that occurred last year at the high school.
The suit seeks damages for an incident that occurred in Skaneateles High School on April 17, 2013. Joshua Cannon, a Skaneateles student in a special needs program, allegedly falsely imprisoned and sexually assaulted another special needs student in a bathroom in the high school.
The suit was filed by attorney James Fleckenstein on behalf of the victim’s family, who are not identified in the complaint. The victim is identified as having down-syndrome and is described as “non-verbal.”
The other defendants in the suit are Cannon, Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, OCM BOCES, Moravia Central School District and Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES employee Randy Liberty, a Syracuse resident.
The criminal charges against Cannon remain pending, said Onondaga County Assistant District Attorney Rick Trunfio.
Prior to being indicted by a grand jury, Cannon was evaluated by psychiatric examiners and determined to be an incapacitated person, which is defined by New York State Criminal Procedure Law as: “a defendant who as a result of mental disease or defect lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense.”
He is being held on the charges until a time when he is deemed to be able to understand the proceedings, Trunfio said.
The civil suit says that Cannon, who had transferred to Skaneateles from the Moravia district, has “violent and aggressive tendencies towards other students,” and that Skaneateles was aware of this and had developed a special education plan for him.
Despite the knowledge of his tendencies, the suit alleges that Cannon and the plaintiff were instructed by Liberty to leave their classroom, unsupervised, to return their trays to the lunchroom.
Cannon then “forced and dragged” the plaintiff into the boys bathroom and assaulted her in one of the stalls, which he locked, according to the suit. After “a time had passed” Liberty and other employees of the defendants went looking for the two and they were discovered in the bathroom, with the plaintiff in “horrific distress.”
The suit seeks “a sum of money which exceeds the jurisdictional limits of all courts of lesser jurisdiction, along with punitive damages” for the emotional and physical damage suffered by the plaintiff, which was a result of Cannon’s actions and the negligence on the part of the other defendants, who failed to properly supervise the students, it said.
Skaneateles Interim Superintendent of Schools Judy Pastel said that following the incident she was advised by attorneys not make a public statement about what had happened. The district’s insurance carrier, Utica National Insurance Group, is providing legal counsel for the district on the matter, Pastel said.
Pastel said that the district has not made any changes to its safety protocols in light of the incident, because the students and instructor in question were part of a program run solely by Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES.
“We don’t deal with that program. We house it, they rent that room and space, but we don’t manage it in any way shape or form,” she said.
Following its regular meeting on April 22, the Board of Education voted to go into an executive session for “discussion of litigation strategy,” which Pastel confirmed was a discussion of the suit.
School officials did not make mention of the pending suit or the incident in question during the public part of the meeting.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.