A local mother has filed a federal lawsuit against city officials and the Youth Study Center, claiming her teenage daughter was raped twice and impregnated by another youth last year inside the juvenile detention facility.
The 15-year-old girl lost her baby in an apparent miscarriage days after employees at the facility confirmed the pregnancy and gave the girl “two white pills,” according to the lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court.
The lawsuit claims that Youth Study Center staff failed to keep the girl safe and violated her right to be free from “cruel and unusual punishment.”
The city-run Youth Study Center in Gentilly houses and educates juveniles charged with criminal offenses.
The girl, who reportedly had been detained on armed robbery charges, was assaulted by a 17-year-old youth identified as J.M., the lawsuit says. It says the first rape happened June 2, 2014, after the girl asked a teacher whether she could be excused to use the bathroom.
The young man, who had been attending the same class, followed the girl to the bathroom “without an escort or monitor,” the lawsuit says, and “a struggle ensued.” The young man — who at 5-foot-10 dwarfed the 4-foot-tall girl — overpowered her and “forcibly raped her,” the lawsuit says.
“He then threatened her with great bodily harm and returned to the classroom,” the lawsuit says. “This happened again weeks later in the exact same way, at which time (the girl) became pregnant.”
About two months later, the lawsuit says, an unidentified detention center staffer “became suspicious” during a doctor’s visit that the girl might be pregnant and ordered blood work. Two staffers gave the girl two unidentified pills, the lawsuit says, and she “lost her baby” days later. The lawsuit claims Youth Study Center staff failed to file a mandatory report with local and state authorities and also did not take the girl to a children’s advocacy center after the alleged rape.
The girl’s mother told WDSU-TV last year that she was outraged her daughter had become pregnant inside the Youth Study Center. She said her daughter had called to inform her of the pregnancy, but the WDSU report contained no mention of sexual assault allegations. “It should never have happened — period,” the mother said at the time.
The mother’s attorney, Jerry Settle, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Brad Howard, a city spokesman, declined to comment on the lawsuit and did not say whether a criminal investigation had been conducted into the rape claims. But he said Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has instituted “new policies, procedures and practices to reform the Youth Study Center” over the past five years.
“Our top priority at the Youth Study Center is and has always been to provide a safe, secure and humane environment for juveniles and our staff,” Howard said.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.