Wednesday, March 13 2013 12:58 PM EDT2013-03-13 16:58:34 GMT
The Grain Valley School District has come under fire for its handling of a prior allegation against a teacher now accused of molesting students.More >
GRAIN VALLEY, MO (KCTV) -
Administrators at the Grain Valley School District went to great lengths to protect a teacher who repeatedly molested students over the course of years, according to a lawsuit filed Friday afternoon.
An unnamed girl and her parents are suing the district, superintendent Roy Moss, assistant superintendent Brad Welle, Marc Snow, a principal and administrator, and James Pinney, a principal.
Also named in the lawsuit is Matthew Nelson, a former teacher who admitted earlier this year to child molestation, statutory sodomy and attempted child molestation. Nelson will be sentenced on April 25.
"A reasonable and careful school district would have recognized that a teacher with Matthew Nelson's sexual abuse propensities poses a danger to its students, and would have terminated Matthew Nelson's employment in those positions, or would have otherwise provided against the danger he posed to students," the lawsuit says.
Nelson was charged in early 2012. At the time, Moss had defended the district's handling of the 2008 allegations.
But the family says district officials had strong reason to suspect Nelson was a predator and no children should have been harmed in this decade after concerns were first raised in the 2005-2006 school year.
The district also allowed Nelson's wife to try to influence the girl's testimony after charges were filed, according to the lawsuit.
The girl who filed the lawsuit was a student at Prairie Branch Elementary School and was in Nelson's class during the 2011 school year. She was 7 years old at the time, and her family says subjected to repeated physical and sexual attacks from Nelson.
"Defendant Nelson began an ongoing, repeated and continuous practice of fondling, holding, kissing and otherwise inappropriately touching and assaulting plaintiff Jane Doe, including such specific acts as touching her private area, touching her legs and inner thighs, and requiring plaintiff Jane Doe to stand between his legs while he sat at his desk in the classroom, and in other locations on school property," according to the lawsuit.
Andrew Smith, an Independence attorney representing the girl and her family, said people in authority failed to act.
"The widespread multi-year nature of the abuse involving so many children is difficult to comprehend,"Smith said.
When suspicions about Nelson were first raised, that district officials on behalf of Moss launched an investigation, according to the lawsuit. At least one telephone call was made to someone who didn't work for the district seeking information about Nelson's inappropriate contact.
Additional concerns were raised in 2007 or 2008, according to the lawsuit. The district failed to sufficiently investigate Nelson and did not punish him. Instead, he remained a teacher with no limitations, according to the lawsuit.
"In or around 2007 or 2008, after being informed of defendant Nelson's inappropriate similar conduct with another minor student, defendants acted in their own interests, and against the interests of the students in their care, by simply moving the effected (sic) student from defendant Nelson's class, but in no other way ensuring the safety of other students, and specifically failing to report the alleged wrongful conduct against students to the appropriate authorities in an adequate, appropriate and timely manner, contrary to the laws of the state of Missouri," the lawsuit claims.
The behavior in those prior years was remarkably similar to his more recent behavior, the lawsuit alleges.
After Nelson had been arrested, district officials allowed Nelson's wife to come onto school grounds and to have "direct and inappropriate contact and conversations" with the girl "in an attempt to influence and deter the reporting of the allegations."
The girl has had numerous issues including bed wetting, inappropriate and harmful thoughts, loss of sleep, rage, sadness, depression, anxiety and trust issues, according to the lawsuit. The girl is now having behavioral and educational issues as a result.
The girl even went so far as to tie "a rope around her neck and tightened it," according to the lawsuit.
The family and the girl are seeking "fair and reasonable compensation" for her injuries.