Girl in fear after sex attack claim at deaf school

Donaldson's staff have been accused of fearing negative publicity over the alleged assault. Picture: Joey Kelly
Donaldson's staff have been accused of fearing negative publicity over the alleged assault. Picture: Joey Kelly
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A DISTRAUGHT mother has told how her daughter is living in terror after an alleged sexual assault by a classmate at Donaldson’s School for the deaf.

The mother, who asked not to be named, said her daughter, now 17, had been crushed by the incident, in which it is claimed a classmate attacked her in one of the toilets at the Linlithgow-based institution – Scotland’s national school for children who are deaf or have communication difficulties.

She said her daughter’s shock turned to fear after the school failed to suspend the other pupil and police halted their inquiry because they were unable to caution and carry out a formal interview with him due to his learning difficulties.

And she slammed the way in which Donaldson’s staff handled the episode, claiming teachers were afraid to take stronger action against the alleged assailant because of a fear it would generate negative publicity.

She said: “My daughter now thinks that because she’s 
disabled, people can hurt her and get away with it.

“She’s like a hermit in her bedroom. She’s become angry and aggressive, asking why we aren’t helping her. I think he should have been suspended until further investigation had been carried out. And they should have been kept apart.”

During the incident in February, it is alleged the girl, then 16, was held against her will in one of the school toilets by her classmate, also 16. She was undressed, groped and threatened with violence if she did not co-operate.

After discovery, both pupils were later interviewed by senior staff, social work teams and police, with a medical examination carried out on the victim the following week.

However, it is understood that because of the alleged attacker’s learning needs, a full criminal inquiry could not be carried out.

“It’s ridiculous – there needs to be a change of law,” the mother said. “It gives me a little glimmer of hope that the police are still looking into it – they could find something that they could work with. But because he doesn’t understand, we can’t do anything.”

School leaders said high levels of vigilance were still being maintained, while police said inquiries into the incident were continuing.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Following a report of sexual assault within a West Lothian school in February 2013, police launched an investigation to determine the full circumstances surrounding this incident.

“A male youth was subject to joint agency interview and assessment and a full report was submitted to the social work department, with recommendations made to the school.

“Detectives continue to pursue lines of inquiry into this matter and are keeping the victim’s family fully updated as to the progress of this investigation, while at the same time offering them appropriate advice, guidance and support.”

Mary Mulligan, convenor of the board of governors of Donaldson’s Trust, said: “The majority of Donaldson’s pupils have additional needs and our staff are skilled in the care and protection of vulnerable young people. At all times, our policy is to operate to a high ratio of staff to students. In this case, we worked closely with social services, the referring Councils for both young people, educational psychologists and the Care Inspectorate, to carry out full risk assessment meetings and put plans in place for ongoing protection.

“Donaldson’s has been the sole educational placement of the young person, entrusted with her care and welfare throughout her educational career. Staff are aware of her needs, and continue to be vigilant.”

New claims follow historic abuse case row

CLAIMS of sexual assault at Donaldson’s come after it emerged last month that its chief executive and headteacher had been suspended pending an inquiry into the way a historic allegation of inappropriate behaviour was dealt with.

The school board ordered an investigation after an alleged “inappropriate physical act” by an unnamed member of staff four years ago. It is understood the incident did not happen at Donaldson’s and involved a young adult not connected with the school.

The school stressed there was no link between this incident and new allegation.