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Charter School Principal Defends Campus In $25 Million Student Sex Abuse Case

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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The principal of South Florida charter school at the center of a $25 million sex abuse and bullying lawsuit continued testifying in court Friday.

Rebecca Dinda is the Principal of the Downtown Miami Charter School where the alleged abuse reportedly took place.

She said the restroom where the 7-year old victim claims to have been sexually assaulted twice by an older student is “always” monitored by a staff member during the breakfast time when the boy said the assaults occurred.

She testified that the door to the restroom is always open.  The alleged offender was a 5th-grader, and the principal said 5th-graders aren’t allowed to use the ground floor restroom.

“The person on that post would have told him to go upstairs,” Dinda said.

Dinda said the only alleged assault the school was informed of happened on a private van on the way to school.

The school van driver, Ramon Alvarez, took the stand Friday afternoon.

He said the day the boy claims he was assaulted, he saw nothing unusual.

“Everything was normal,” Alvarez said.  Alvarez also described the alleged victim as a feisty kid “who could take care of himself.”

The boy’s attorney asked him about his license and did not ask him about the alleged assault. Defense made it clear he is a private operator and doesn’t work for the charter school.

The child revealed the later bathroom incidents to a therapist after being hospitalized for attempting suicide, according to the boy’s attorney.

The principal said the 7-year-old used “very shocking” adult slang in describing the school van incident, terms too graphic for print.

When she asked the boy why he performed the sex act, he replied he “did it because (the other boy) was going to kick his a– if he didn’t.”

The boy and his mother are suing the school for allegedly failing to protect the younger boy after learning of the assault on the van.

The principal said she questioned all of the students in the van and none saw anything happen.

She admitted the accused offender had a history of acting out sexually inappropriately, and had been suspended after one incident.

The alleged victim’s attorney asked Dinda why she didn’t remove “the sexual predator” from the school after the 7-year-old brought his original allegation.

“There was an allegation of a sexual assault.  I had no proof,” Dinda replied.  She noted, too that the State Attorney did not pursue a criminal case.

The attorney representing Charter Schools USA, the owner of the Downtown Miami Charter School, said Thursday in court that the boy fabricated stories of sexual assault.

“No one is calling this kid a liar, “said defense attorney Todd Ehrenreich.
“(He) can’t tell the difference between reality and fantasy.”

Ehrenreich told jurors the child had lost a sister to an accident, and that his father was in prison, and that he had serious emotional and psychological issues long before the alleged sexual assaults at the school.

Ehrenreich said there were no eyewitnesses to the alleged assaults. He said the driver of the school van will testify he saw nothing happen on the school van the day the boy claims he was assaulted.

The defense says the boy’s mother, in documents provided by the school, said her son had “severe behavioral problems.”

She is expected to take the stand on Monday.

The unidentified victim is also expected to take the stand.

Both boys are in therapy.

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