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Parents sue St Edmund’s College after daughter allegedly inappropriately touched by fellow student

By Josh Bavas ; ABC News, posted 13/4/2021

The parents of a girl who was subjected to alleged sustained inappropriate sexual touching by another student are suing their daughter’s special-needs school.

Steve and Belinda Rowe are speaking publicly for the first time to raise awareness among the disability community and prompt other parents to be vigilant.

They said they first noticed something was seriously affecting their daughter Evi when she was in year 8 at St Edmund’s College at Wahroonga on Sydney’s Upper North Shore in 2018.

“Evi went from a happy, bubbly child to someone who couldn’t toilet herself, she couldn’t feed herself, she couldn’t pick up a spoon,” Ms Rowe said.

“She could not communicate — she was mute for over 12 months — no words, no ‘yes’, no ‘no’, no head shaking, she was not engaged at all.”

Their daughter lives with an intellectual disability which significantly reduces her capacity to communicate, adding more complications for her parents who desperately wanted to know what happened.

She was diagnosed with an unexplained Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after several panic attacks, including one where she stood still with her fists clenched without sleep for more than 30 hours.

“My other children have been affected by it as well…they keep Evi very close and safe but they recognise Evi is no longer the little sister they had.”

The Rowes were later informed by the school that a male student had been allegedly inappropriately sexually touching her after a series of text messages between students discussing sexual content was discovered.

Police began investigating and heard it was likely to have included digital penetration in an unsupervised rainforest garden at the school.

Evi’s parents said they were told up to two other female students may also have been sexually touched by the same student, although their identities were withheld.

“We were horrified,” Mr Rowe said.

“The area is not a large area but it’s rainforest with some stone benches in it — it’s called the ‘Sacred Space’.

“It’s just crazy to imagine that kids could go off there on their own.”

The family is now preparing to take civil action against the school over its alleged failings to protect their daughter and have recently issued the school with their notice of intention….


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