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According to a complaint, a nine-year-old known old known only as Jane Doe in the court documents was checked out of Covington County Elementary School at least six times by an unauthorized stranger during the 2007-08 school year. The stranger, Tommy Keyes, signed the child out as her father and at least once as her mother. The complaint alleges that Keyes raped, sodomized, and molested Jane during these sessions and then returned her to school. The complaint further alleges that school officials never asked Keyes for identification or checked the "permission to check-out form" that each parent or guardian submitted to the school with the names of adults authorized to pick up their children.

Jane’s father and grandmother, Daniel and Geneva Magee, filed the complaint against the Covington County School District, several educators, and Keyes. The trial court dismissed the case against the school and its officials, however, holding that they had no duty to protect the girl.

On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Magees that the school had a "special relationship" with Jane:

[She] was required to attend the school throughout the entire school day, out of the presence of her legal guardian and without any ability to leave; and Jane’s exclusive confinement by the school, entirely without the protection of her legal guardian, in combination with her young age, made Jane wholly dependent on the School for her safety.

After finding that a special relationship existed, the court then concluded that the school and its officials acted with deliberate indifference to Jane’s safety by checking her out to an unauthorized adult (whom they did not know) without verifying his identity to confirm that he was authorized by Jane’s legal guardian to check her out of school. The court then reversed the dismissal of the school district to allow the family to proceed in its case against the school district for possible violations of her substantive due-process rights. The court agreed, however, that qualified immunity protects the school officials from liability.

For the full story, click here.

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