HAZARD—The Perry County School District and Superintendent Jonathan Jett, along with a handful of other district employees, have been named in a lawsuit filed last week which claims they “acted with deliberate indifference to the rights of” an elementary school student, leading to the sexual assault of said student.
According to the suit, filed Thursday in Perry County Circuit Court, between 2012 and 2013, the plaintiff’s child, named E.G.B. in the suit, was enrolled at Chavies Elementary as a kindergarten student and a first grade student. During those two years, E.G.B. “was subjected to sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, physical abuse, bullying, intimidation, and psychological abuse … by John Doe,” who was also a minor.
Lori Reynolds, who is representing the plaintiff, said the age difference between E.G.B. and Doe was quite large in elementary school standards, being that Doe was 13 and 14 years old when the incidents occurred and E.G.B. was 6 and 7 years old.
“There’s some very heavy stuff, and the thing that’s so disturbing is that it happened over a two-year period before it was caught,” Reynolds said.
The abuse and other bullying incidents were reported to the defendants, who are named in the suit as the school district, Jett, as both superintendent and individually, former Chavies Elementary Principal Charles E. Browning, Jr., current Chavies Principal Regina Paul, and Kim Hoskins, by E.G.B. on multiple occasions, according to the suit.
“Rather than act to correct the problem, as was their legal duty, Chavies Elementary, Perry County School District, and the individual defendants, on information and belief, failed to take any steps to end such abuse, including failing to report, and took no appropriate or remedial action,” the suit reads.
The suit goes on to say the defendants knew or had reason to know that Doe had molested or abused other students, and did not separate him from other students nor did they notify any parents or students of the danger Doe could pose.
“The defendants completely failed and negated their duty to prevent bullying and harassment of such persons, to the detriment and damage of E.G.B.,” the suit reads.
In January 2014, Doe pleaded guilty due to mental illness to two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, a felony offense, after admitting to performing acts of sexual abuse on E.G.B. on at least two separate occasions on the premises of Chavies Elementary.
The suit carries seven counts against the defendants, including civil rights violations, bullying, common law battery, failure to supervise, failure to report, and failure to implement student discipline code.
When contacted, Jett told the Herald neither he nor anyone working for the school system could comment on the suit, and any further questions should be directed to the school board’s attorney.
Mike Schmitt, the school board’s attorney, did not return phone calls for comment before the time of press.
“The school and the school board and the teachers have a duty to supervise and protect these children,” Reynolds said. “When a parent drops a child off at school, the school takes the role of a parent … Not only should my client have been protected, the perpetrator should have been protected from his own conduct, too.”
Reynolds explained that her client was not filing this suit to punish Doe or to try to take down the system, but rather was hoping to bring attention to a preventable incident in hopes of keeping the same thing from happening again with other children.
“They want the children of Perry County to be protected, and if there are children out there that have been hurt, there is a safe place to which they can come and disclose what has happened,” Reynolds said.
“If it was taken seriously it would have never reached the point that it did. It would have stopped there,”
The Care Cottage in Hazard, the Kentucky River Children’s Advocacy Center (KRCAC), offers support services, counselling, and other assistance for children in the area who may be suspected of being sexually abused, Reynolds said.
If you or anyone you know feels they need help from the Care Cottage, they can call (606)-487-9173.
Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.