Lawsuit claims EBR Schools teacher sexually assaulted middle school student in 1985
BATON ROUGE - A former student at Southeast Middle School has filed a federal lawsuit claiming a teacher there sexually assaulted him in 1985 and that the school district didn't act to protect the plaintiff and other students at the time.
The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Shawn Prather, who claims that he was hugged, kissed, and then subjected to more extensive sexual abuse after being called to a classroom by Rafe N. Davison, a science teacher at the school.
The initial assault allegedly took place on or about May 14, 1985. It involved graphic sexual acts, according to documents reviewed by WBRZ.
The lawsuit claims two additional incidents followed later that month.
Prather says reports were filed with the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office and that the investigation included detective interviews of school officials and the teacher.
The filing notes: Davison admitted to detectives to having a personal attraction to Petitioner and to kissing him after closing the classroom door to be alone with Petitioner on May 14, 1985. Davison admitted that he had done wrong and needed counseling to help him with his "problem." Davison was then arrested for indecent behavior with a juvenile.
But the lawsuit claims that school administrators had received prior complaints about Davison, and cites an alleged meeting between detectives, the Southeast Middle School principal and high-ranking district administrators "years earlier to discuss concerns and complaints from parents in Davison's neighborhood about Davison's behavior with children."
The district's alleged failure to act in response to that meeting is central to the lawsuit, which also faults East Baton Rouge Schools for negligent hiring and training, inadequate security and policies and other missteps.
Mikalia Kott, who represents Prather, said the school should have taken action before her client was assaulted.
"Based on the public records that were available at the time of the abuse of my client, the school system and the principal himself acknowledged to police that they had been warned about the potential for children being endangered by this particular teacher," she told WBRZ.
Davison was 47 at the time of his arrest and is now deceased.
WBRZ asked multiple agencies about the case and its resolution. The 19th Judicial Clerk of Court has no records related to prosecution of Davison on the 1985 charge and the East Baton Rouge District Attorney could also find no records connected to the arrest.
The lawsuit was filed one year after President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that eliminated the civil statute of limitations for children who are victims of sexual abuse. Previously, such a case could be filed up until 10 years after the offense or until the victim had reached the age of 28.
Louisiana has also revised its statute of limitations to allow additional time for a lawsuit to be filed in matters of child sexual abuse.
"I think justice is closure, and that comes with acknowledgement harm was done to my client and exposing policies that enabled that kind of abuse," Kott said.
WBRZ reached out to the school district for its response to the filing. A representative said the Board had not yet been served with the lawsuit.
Prather no longer lives in Baton Rouge.