Family of girl attacked by online predator she met via N.J. school’s laptop settles lawsuit for nearly $1M

The family of a Camden County girl lured by an online predator to a hotel, where she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted, has settled their lawsuit with the school district that issued her a laptop, according to court documents.

The Collingswood School District will pay $650,000 in structured payments to the girl and another $300,000 to her parents, according to a settlement agreement signed recently by a judge in New Jersey Superior Court .

The 12-year-old was a seventh-grade student in the district’s middle school and provided a school-issued laptop for class assignments, homework and other projects, according to the lawsuit filed in 2019.

“The school-issued computer failed to have proper limitations or controls installed which would prevent students from accessing unauthorized or inappropriate sites,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims Liam Heim of Florida, 21, contacted the 12-year-old through a search engine known as “Discord” sometime during the 2017-18 school year.

After frequent online chats, Heim told the girl he was traveling to New Jersey and wanted to meet with her, the lawsuit states.

“He further indicated that if she wouldn’t meet with him, he would hurt himself,” the lawsuit states.

The girl met with Heim on March 29, 2019, in a Collingswood park. The suit claims Heim took her on public transportation to a hotel in Philadelphia, where he sexually assaulted her over 36 hours.

Police were able to rescue the girl from the hotel after her parents reported her missing, according to the lawsuit.

Heim, now 23, was arrested and later pleaded guilty to several charges and sentenced to 15 years in prison and supervision for life.

The lawsuit claims that a guidance counselor at the school was aware of the student’s contact with Heim, but never notified the parents or called police.

The suit also blamed the district for failing to limit or monitor students’ usage of school-issued computers.

The district failed to have safety policies that address e-mail and chatrooms, and failed to adopt county, state or federal Internet safety protocols, the suit alleged.

The parents had claimed school officials ignored their requests to see their daughter’s online browser history before she was attacked.

School Superintendent Scott Oswald, reached Friday, said neither he nor the district has any comment on the case or the settlement.

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Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find on Facebook.

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