The family of a young Cleveland student who was raped and murdered on her way to school has filed a civil lawsuit against her charter school and the city. In court documents, the mother and father of Alianna DeFreeze, a seventh grader murdered in January 2017, take aim at her school, E Prep and Village Prep Woodland Hills, for failing to contact them when she did not turn up for classes. The suit also claims negligence on the part of the City of Cleveland for failing to deal with abandoned buildings, like the one in which DeFreeze’s body was found.
Parents Pursue Justice In Wake Of Daughter’s Death
Alianna DeFreeze was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in January 2017, her lifeless body later found in an abandoned home. Christopher Whitaker, himself a convicted sex offender, has been convicted for the crime on 10 counts, including aggravated murder and kidnapping. He now sits on death row.
But her grieving family says that justice has yet to be done. In a new civil lawsuit, the seventh-grader’s parents accuse E Prep and Village Prep Woodland Hills, along with parent organization Friends of Breakthrough Schools, of negligence in their daughter’s death. “Defendants School System,” the lawsuit reads, “utterly and without question breached a critical duty owed to each and every parent to provide notice of a missing child – no text messages, phone calls, emails or any other form of communication.”
Lawsuit Accuses Cleveland Charter School Of Negligence
The lawsuit also accuses the school of attempting to cover up its negligent inaction. “Defendants have tried to cover up their fatal inaction by claiming that they sent [Alianna’s mother] a message […] notifying her of Alianna’s absence, but that the system malfunctioned […] Upon information and belief, Defendants school system have lied about their action of sending a message.” Her parents say they never learned that Alianna was absent from school until the end of the school day.
Alan Rosskam, a spokesperson for Breakthrough Schools, parent organization of the charter school Alianna attended, released a short statement to Fox 8 , but declined to comment on the pending litigation. “Alianna’s loss was a tremendous loss to our entire community,” Rosskam said. “We’ve done our best to be supportive of her parents.”
Suit Takes On City Over Abandoned Buildings
Alianna’s body was found in a vacant home. As a result, the family’s wrongful death lawsuit also takes aim at the City of Cleveland, claiming negligence on the basis of the City’s “knowledge of the violent crimes committed in abandoned properties and their failure to oversee and / or demolish them.”
Alianna’s Alert Law Takes Effect In April
Despite the immense grief of losing a child, DeFreeze’s family has already turned their pain into action. The parents were instrumental in advocating for a new law that will require schools to notify families of a child’s absence. It’s called Alianna’s Alert, and requires schools to notify parents of an unexcused absence within 120 minutes of the start of the school day. Governor John Kasich signed the bill into law in January 2018 and goes into effect in April.
This weekend, Alianna’s friends and loved ones remembered her tragic death by releasing balloons and advocating for more security for children walking to school.