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Reading Recreation Commission sued over child sexual abuse case

Reading Eagle - 11/24/2021

Nov. 24—A federal lawsuit has been filed claiming the Reading Recreation Commission and its executive director failed to protect an 11-year-old girl from being sexually abused by a former commission employee.

The suit claims the girl's constitutional rights were violated and seeks compensatory damages in excess of $150,000. It was filed Nov. 3 on behalf of the girl by her father.

Officials from the recreation commission referred questions about the suit to their attorneys, who did not immediately provide comment.

The suit revolves around the actions of Austin L. Quigg, a now-22-year-old former employee of the recreation commission who pleaded guilty in October 2020 to sexually assaulting the girl. Quigg is serving a sentence of one to two years in prison followed by 15 years of probation.

Quigg was arrested in January 2020 after a call to the state's Childline child abuse hotline sparked in investigation. He was found to have had sexual contact with an 11-year-old girl at various locations in Reading between June 2019 and January 2020.

He also exchanged sexually explicit photos, messages and videos with the girl.

According to the federal lawsuit:

Quigg had access to the girl through his job with the recreation commission. Quigg worked at the 11th and Pike Street Recreational Center, where the girl and other children were under his care and supervision.

The recreation center is also where much of the physical abuse took place. The girl told county detectives investigating Quigg that there were a lot of times that Quigg and she touched each other on top of their clothing, mostly at the center.

Quigg was also found to have more than 68 photos and videos of the girl's bare private parts on his cellphone, computer and laptop.

The suit blames recreation commission officials for creating a situation where the abuse could occur.

"The actions, and inactions, of the defendant Reading Recreation Commission created the environment which allowed their employee to perpetrate this ongoing child abuse over a course of time without being detected and without being reported," the suit reads.

The suit lays out three counts, two which claim violations of the girl's 14th Amendment rights and one which claims a Title IX violation.

Reading Recreation Commission lawsuit

The first count claims that recreation commission officials knew they were serving a population of children who were "emotionally insecure, needy and unsupported," which made them prone to grooming and sexual abuse. The commission did not create a culture where sexual abuse was discussed, addressed, prevented and promptly reported, it claims.

The second count directly cites recreation commission Executive Director Daphne Klahr.

It says Klahr was the policy maker for the recreation commission, claiming she has responsibility for not appropriately training employees or enacting policies detailing what employees or their supervisors should do if they see "red flags" in interactions between kids and staff.

The third count claims the recreation commission knew about the girl's sexual abuse, failed to appropriately investigate it and subjected the girl to a sexually hostile environment.

The suit calls the recreation commission's response to the sexual harassment of the girl deliberate indifference.


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