Family of girl sexually assaulted in SC middle school bathroom receives 6-figure settlement

The family of a middle school student who was sexually assaulted by a janitor in a school bathroom will receive $150,000 in a legal settlement.

The unidentified girl was attacked in the restroom at Pelion Middle School in May 2021, according to the lawsuit brought by Columbia attorney Tyler Bailey. The janitor was subsequently arrested and charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor, the lawsuit says.

The janitor, identified in the lawsuit as Juston Deon Smith, pleaded guilty to the crime, according to Lexington County court records.

The lawsuit targeted the Lexington 1 school district and the janitorial company, Action Labor Management, accusing them of negligence in hiring Smith and allowing him access to his victim. The complaint alleges Smith “immediately began to prey on young and vulnerable middle school girls” upon his arrival at Pelion Middle during the 2020-21 school year.

“Children should be safe and secure from sexual assault, sexual violence and sexual predators while at school,” Bailey said in a statement announcing the settlement. “Our goal at the onset of these cases is to hold schools accountable for protecting students, ensuring no child goes through what my client did and creating safer educational environments for all students. We hope this lawsuit encourages schools to prioritize child safety in their hiring practices and enact and enforce policies that focus on preserving student safety.”

The settlement agreement calls for $75,000 to be paid by Lexington 1 and $65,000 from Action Labor, plus another $10,000 to be paid to the girl’s mother by the school district for individual claims.

Fifty thousand dollars will be paid out in insurance payments; $31,000 will be kept in an account overseen by the court until the victim turns 18; and $61,500 will be paid to the Bailey Law Firm in costs and attorneys’ fees.

The State has reached out to Lexington 1 for comment on the settlement but had not received a response before publication.