A Nashville mother’s difficulty in getting information about her disabled daughter’s alleged sexual abuse aboard a Metro school bus has spurred some state lawmakers into action.
The abuse occurred in 2006 when a mentally disabled boy allegedly sexually assaulted a now 11-year-old autistic girl on a Metro school bus, just a few feet behind the driver.
After the incident, the girl’s parents knew that their daughter had been assaulted but could not get any information for months on what exactly happened.
The mother said her daughter’s case was passed back and forth between the state Department of Children’s Services (DCS), Metro Police and the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office.
“We just never learned anything from anybody,” the mother said. “They all blamed each other.”
The City Paper does not print the names of sexual assault victims or their parents.
The Nashville mother took that message to the legislature’s Select Committee on Children and Youth on Monday, testifying in favor of legislation that would require the release of previously confidential DCS records.
Those records on the juvenile could be released if a non-offending parent or guardian of an abused child requests them, the legislation states.
Rep. Sherry Jones (D-Nashville), who is sponsoring the legislation, said that DCS needs to release the information to the parent of the abused “so they can get help for their child.”
“She went for six months and couldn’t find out what happened to her daughter,” Jones said of the victim’s mother. “And that was just unnecessary that they acted like that towards her.”
DCS is not opposing Jones’ legislation outright and “is certainly willing to explore” it, said spokesman Rob Johnson.
“It is certainly something the department would like to look at with some careful deliberation to find out ways to improve communications with parents in situations such as this,” Johnson said.
The U.S. Justice Department is now investigating abuse of special education students on Metro school buses.
The victim’s mother said her daughter is still experiencing some of the effects of the school bus assault.
“She’s all right,” the mother said. “I mean, do I think she’s better? No. She doesn’t sleep at night. She’s afraid of the dark, things like that that she was never before.”