Teen Can't Pin Sex-Slave Claims on School
HOUSTON (CN) - A Texas school district is not liable for a dance instructor's sexual abuse of a student who spoke about the misconduct only after she graduated, a federal judge ruled.
Amanda Feenstra was sentenced in 2013 to 10 years probation after admitting she had sex with A.W. for two years, starting in spring 2009 when A.W. was 16, until 2011 when A.W. graduated from Humble High School.
A.W. and her mother, Mary King-White, sued the school district for the Houston suburb, as well as Feenstra and six school officials, claiming the officials turned a blind eye to Feenstra's inappropriate relationship with A.W.
A.W. was 16 in April 2009 when she was named captain of the Humble High School Wildcats dance team, making her "responsible for working with the dance instructor to develop routines," the complaint states.
Feenstra, the 30-year-old newly hired dance coach, allegedly immediately took to scheduling after-school meetings with A.W., showing up at A.W.'s house late at night and having the teen over to her house, under the guise of discussing new dance routines.
"Eventually, Feenstra convinced A.W. to move into Feenstra's residence with Feenstra and Feenstra's husband," the complaint states. "Although A.W.'s mother initially objected, Feenstra told A.W.'s mother that the move-in was in A.W.'s best interest, since it would allow A.W. to work on dance routines with Feenstra, help develop A.W.'s leadership skills, and help Feenstra mold A.W. for college."
Instead Feenstra took to dry humping A.W. and progressed to performing cunnilingus and using dildos on the teen at home when her husband was out of town, in her office at school and on road trips, while constantly telling the girl she loved her, according to the complaint.
A.W. said Feenstra turned her into her "sex slave" and she obeyed Feenstra's command to keep quiet about the abuse.
Feenstra allegedly began stalking A.W. after graduation in 2011, however, leading the teen to tell a former dance instructor about the relationship.
The instructor then alerted school officials and Feenstra was arrested.
A.W. and her mother sued for violations of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sexual discrimination in education, and also alleged sexual assault, gross negligence and other claims under state law.
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake dismissed the claims against the school district and its officials last week.
Since the sexual abuse happened more than two years before the suit was filed, the Title IX claims are time-barred, according to the ruling.
A.W. and her mother also failed to show that the statute of limitations should be tolled because school officials concealed their knowledge of the abuse.
The "complaint contains no allegations of fact capable of proving that while A.W. was a student at Humble High School that any specific person, apart from Feenstra, had actual knowledge that she and A.W. had a sexual relationship," Lake wrote.
As for the civil rights claims and the state-law claims against the district, Lake said that, under the Texas Tort Claims Act, "the only permissible tort claim against a school district is a claim based on misuse of a motor vehicle."
The state-law claims against the school officials meanwhile failed because Texas law stipulates, when a lawsuit is filed against a government agency and its employees, the employees are automatically dismissed upon the filing of a motion by the agency.
A.W. and her mother cannot amend their complaint but they can reply to the defendants' dismissal motion.
The 65-page order leaves Feenstra as the sole remaining defendant.
A.W. and King-White's attorney, Aubrey Pittman of Dallas, was not immediately available for comment.