Bishop says school negligent in allowing sexual abuse of 7-year-old son
KENANSVILLE, Duplin County - Less than six months ago, a 7-year-old boy told his parents of an episode at school that nearly made his mother fall backwards when she heard it.
Now, his family doesn't know if they will ever get him back.
Jeffrey and Brenda Carr adopted a pair of half-brothers about three years ago. Jeffrey leads Robinson Chapel Missionary Baptist in Roseboro as its bishop and the family seemed to have a good life together.
That is until one day in February when their eldest son, who is a high-functioning autistic, came home with news that raised an alarm.
"The boys on the bus said if I wanted to be their friend, I had to put my head in their laps," Jeffrey recounted of his son's tale. "To be their friend, I had to suck their peepee."
They went first to their pediatrician to have their son examined and let the doctor talk with their son about what happened. The Carrs immediately followed that by filing a police report with the Duplin County Sheriff's Office.
The Carrs went to the principal at Wallace Elementary School. While they explained what they were told, Jeffrey says the school's assistant principal went and talked with their son in a separate room, getting the same story from him he had told his parents.
School leadership told the parents the matter would be looked into and that they had a good idea of the boys involved, based on what their son had told them, Jeffrey said.
"We didn't hear anything from the school, though," Jeffrey said.
Weeks after the initial incident in mid-February, Jeffrey said their son came home with an even more disturbing tale. The same group of boys had gotten their 7-year-old son to perform oral sex on them on the playground and then again made him perform sexual acts in a school bathroom.
Again, Jeffrey confronted school officials, finding out that the parents of the boys named by their son had not been contacted.
"I'm a bishop in the community, and so I have to handle things differently," Jeffrey said, discussing the war he felt as being a minister for Christ and being a father wanting to protect his child.
He was furious, however, and he and Brenda were now dealing with a new problem at home as their 7-year-old began trying to act out some of the behaviors he said were happening to him at school on his 4-year-old brother.
Not long after he reported the incidents from the playground and a school bathroom to his parents, the Carr's eldest son refused to go to school - and went into a rage about it. The parents had him treated at New Hanover Regional Medical Center and he was admitted for four weeks, having become a danger to his younger brother now that he was acting out sexually at home.
He was transferred to another hospital in Jacksonville after that and was there for six weeks, receiving five different medications, Jeffrey said.
Medical professionals and social workers then gave the Carrs devastating news.
"We were told there's a very strong possibility that our son's never coming back home to us," Jeffrey said, holding back tears. "We may lose our son. And nobody cares."
The family has had to relinquish control of their eldest adoptive son back to the state, though they still pay for his care and try to visit him as often as they can.
His younger brother, Jeffrey says, asks about him nearly every day.
Throughout the process, Jeffrey said, he believes the school never took appropriate action to protect his son - or other students that may have also been sexually abused by the same group of boys.
Jeffrey said the Duplin County Sheriff's Office told him there wasn't enough evidence to pursue a criminal case, though he says the department never interviewed his son about the incidents in question.
School officials did, however, have his son pick out the boy who may have sexually abused him from a lineup, as well as have him re-create what happened in the bathroom for school authorities. This was done without the knowledge of his own parents or the parents of those children used in the lineup, said Jeffrey, who found about it after the fact.
With little financial reserves - the Carrs wiped out their savings adopting the two boys three years earlier - the couple decided to file a lawsuit against the school district with Jeffrey representing himself.
A hearing in the lawsuit is set for Aug. 7. The attorneys for the Duplin County School District have filed for a motion to dismiss the case.