Atlanta Public Schools to pay $750,000 to settle sex assault lawsuit

The Atlanta Board of Education agreed to pay $750,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging the district failed to protect a student from sexual assault. AJC FILE PHOTO

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The Atlanta Board of Education agreed to pay $750,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging the district failed to protect a student from sexual assault. AJC FILE PHOTO

Atlanta Public Schools will pay $750,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that alleges the district failed to protect a middle school student from a former paraprofessional accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting him.

The boy’s parents filed the lawsuit in 2020. The family’s attorney, Bradley W. Pratt, declined through his law firm to comment on the settlement.

The district also declined to comment on the case. The school board agreed to the payout last week.

The suit alleges that Sanchez Waller, who worked at Bunche Middle School as a paraprofessional, sexually assaulted an eighth grade student on multiple occasions in 2018.

APS fired Waller in May 2018. He was arrested that month and charged with child molestation, sexual battery and other counts. That criminal case is ongoing. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

The parents’ lawsuit against APS contends the district knew of “at least one prior incident where Waller had inappropriate contact” with another male student months before he allegedly began assaulting their son. Their son is identified in court records by a pseudonym.

The district failed to investigate the earlier incident and allowed Waller to return to his position “on the same day that the prior complaint was made,” according to the suit.

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The lawsuit alleges the district “was willfully and deliberately indifferent to Waller’s history of inappropriate contact” and the threat he posed.

In early May 2018, the boy told his mother about the alleged attacks. His parents reported it to the school. The boy missed the final three weeks of the school year and “suffered depression and a loss of self-confidence,” the suit states.

The family later left Georgia.

In addition to suing Waller and APS, former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and Tommy Usher, an associate superintendent, also were initially named as defendants. Carstarphen and Usher were dismissed from the lawsuit in December, according to court records.

School board documents state the settlement will “fully resolve the pending litigation.” The money will be paid out in two equal payments, one this fiscal year and one in the fiscal year that begins July 1.