CARMEL, Ind. - The City of Carmel faces a lawsuit that claims workers at a summer camp didn’t take appropriate steps to prevent the bullying and sexual harassment of an 8-year-old girl.
Attorney Tim Stoesz, representing the little girl’s family, filed a tort claim in August and is now moving forward with the lawsuit.
“If you send your children some place to be supervised while you are at work, they should be supervised,” Stoesz said.
The lawsuit claims the 8-year-old girl was subjected to repeated incidents of bullying and harassment by a 7-year-old girl between June 8 and July 5 at a summer camp hosted by the Carmel-Clay Parks and Recreation Department.
In the lawsuit, the 8-year-old girl’s mother says she contacted camp workers repeatedly about concerns her daughter was being bullied at the camp, but preventative measures weren’t taken until after July 5 when a “pseudo sexual harassment” took place in a bathroom.
The lawsuit claims the 7-year-old girl cornered the 8-year-old girl in a bathroom and locked the door. The 7-year-old girl pulled down her own pants and pushed the older girl’s head into her crotch to simulate oral sex, the lawsuit says. The younger girl also allegedly pulled down the older girl’s pants and touched her inappropriately.
“If two children can go off to a bathroom and have enough time to have things happen inside a bathroom stall and no adult is around, that’s a problem,” Stoesz said. “When multiple notices were given and events still continued to happen, that’s the problem.”
Stoesz says camp employees did report the alleged abuse to Carmel Police, but not before several incidents were allowed to happen.
“The children were interviewed in a forensic interview by Carmel law enforcement, and that was the end of it,” Stoesz said.
The lawsuit says camp workers “failed to provide proper supervision and training of its employees and should be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employee as they were within the scope of their employment with Carmel.”
In October, the mother of the 8-year old girl released a statement:
“After learning what happened to my daughter, I contacted the Office of the Mayor of Carmel and spoke with his staff on multiple occasions. I was never contacted by the Mayor or anyone from his office about my concerns. The trauma that my daughter experienced this summer has become a force of its own. Every aspect of her life and our family life has been altered. Someone needs to answer to these atrocities and make sure that no other child and family have to go through what we are enduring”
While all the details of what happened at the camp are not yet known, Stoesz expects much more information about how the situation was handled to come during the discovery phase, when camp and city emails will be subpoenaed.
“Reading their emails, reading their communications,” Stoesz said. “They’re going to have to basically give us anything communication-wise that affected this case.”
The lawsuit is seeking the maximum possible $700,000 in damages, in addition to punitive damages.
Carmel officials say it is the city’s policy to not comment on pending litigation.