A 12-year-old deaf Lodi boy was allegedly sexually assaulted by another student. The victim’s family says they’re upset with how the Lodi Unified School District has been handling the case. The family is speaking up to tell their story and to reach out to other children who may have been assaulted.
Tears well up in Loretta Sotello's eyes when we sat down to speak with her on Wednesday. Full of regret, sadness, and most of all frustration.
"We kind of blame ourselves at times, like why didn’t we know, why didn’t we suspect anything,” Loretta Sotelo, a Lodi parent who claimed her son was sexually assaulted. Her 12-year-old deaf son was attacked by a teen just three years older. Both were students at the same school in the Lodi Unified School District. The name of the school is not being released to protect the identity of the victim.
"He forced my son to pull his pants down and to perform oral sex,” she claimed.
Over the course of a year, starting in 2013, her son was sexually assaulted in a school bathroom and a school bus. A ride that has at maximum six students at a time and an aide on board because of her son's handicap. "The aide should know sign language. Some type of sign language to communicate with the students in case something is going on,” she told FOX40.
Sotello claimed she found out about the alleged sexual assault when Lodi Police detectives questioned her son in October 2014. The juvenile was arrested but this mother believes there are more victims. "It makes me feel not even safe to send my son on the bus or even to school now.”
She added that her son's principal asked her to home school him after the alleged incident. "I feel my son was kind of picked on and just they weren’t dealing with it right. Like, my son was the victim; he shouldn’t have to leave the school. He needs this school, being he’s 100-percent deaf. "
We reached out to the Lodi Unified School District who referred us to the Risk Management office. The person there referred us back to the Superintendent’s Office, who then referred us to the Risk Management office. All in all they said, ‘no comment.’
The family has since filed a claim against the school district, it’s the first step before filing a lawsuit. "Trying to get some understanding of how this possibly could have occurred,” Doug Rishwain, Sotelo's Attorney said.
The suspect is no longer enrolled in the same school as Sotello's son. She told us his ongoing nightmares of what allegedly happen still haunt their family. "Everybody’s seen a big change in him. He was always smiling, happy, laughing and now he’s just depressed,” she said.
Sotelo said the suspect’s next court date is in April. The Sotelo family plans to move forward with a lawsuit later in March if the school district rejects their claim.