Judge: Lawsuit against school district in kindergartner's kidnapping can proceed

A federal judge ruled last Thursday that a civil lawsuit can proceed against the School District of Philadelphia, the School Reform Commission and the substitute teacher on duty when a kindergartner was kidnapped from class last year and later sexually assaulted.

The school district had asked U.S. District Judge Jan E. DuBois to dismiss the complaint against the district and teacher Reginald Littlejohn, in which attorney Tom Kline argued the victim, then 5, was denied her constitutional right to personal safety at Bryant Elementary School in West Philadelphia.

The lawsuit, filed by the girl’s family, claims Littlejohn violated school policy on Jan. 14, 2013, by releasing the child to Christina Regusters, 21, a stranger hidden head-to-toe in Muslim garb. Regusters worked at an after-school program the girl attended and was permitted to take the child out of class without providing identification.

After taking the girl from Bryant, Regusters sexually assaulted her in a house nearby and then abandoned her in an Upper Darby park wearing only a T-shirt. A Good Samaritan, Nelson Mandela Myers, found her the next morning and called police.

Regusters was convicted in September of kidnapping, indecent deviate sexual intercourse and related crimes. She remains jailed on $4 million bail pending her sentencing, which is set for Jan. 20, according to Kline and court records.

The complaint blames the district of failing to properly screen Littlejohn or train and supervise employees on policies governing the dismissal of students.

“The school district, which despite its public admissions of fault, has refused to accept any responsibility for enabling one of the most heinous crimes in Philadelphia history,” Kline said in a statement. “We are now one major step closer to a civil federal jury hearing the horror story of an innocent taken from the sanctuary of a kindergarten classroom into a den of horror, and the reforms needed to make our schools safe again.”

The suit seeks more than $150,000 in damages. District spokesman Fernando Gallard said he could not comment on pending litigation.