Girl Says High School Ignored Teacher’s Abuse

     SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) — A student says officials at a Northern California school failed to respond when she complained of sexual harassment by her chemistry teacher, forcing her to change schools while leaving other students vulnerable to a sexual predator.
     Attorney Gloria Allred is representing the student, identified as Jane Doe, in a lawsuit against the Gilroy Unified School District filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on May 5. Doe says the district failed in its duty to protect her from sexual abuse by Gilroy High School chemistry teacher Douglas Le, also a defendant in the case.
     “(Celest) Benn’s 15-year-old daughter was a student at Gilroy High School and Douglas Le was her chemistry teacher,” Allred said in a statement. “The complaint alleges that in October 2014 Mr. Le sent Ms. Benn’s daughter a number of sexually harassing text messages.”
     The explicit text messages refer to oral sex and the size of the minor’s mouth and contain an apparent threat to defecate on the girl, the lawsuit says.
     Doe promptly filed a complaint with the school district, which gave Le a slap on the wrist and allowed him to continue teaching Doe — using his position to sexually abuse and harass her, the lawsuit says.
     “Given the gross misconduct that occurred, Mr. Le, who was a probationary teacher, should have been fired immediately,” Allred said.
     Doe’s mother Celest Benn also expressed outrage over the district’s handling of the case.
     “I am disgusted that the district took no action to protect my daughter,” Benn said in a prepared statement.
     Doe transferred to another school in order to get away for Le. She continues to suffer from trauma related to the sexual abuse and harassment, Allred said.
     “They protected an individual who admittedly engaged in gross sexual misconduct and because they did nothing more children were harmed,” Benn said.
     Le had engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct with several other minors, both before and after the incident with the plaintiff, the complaint says, adding that because district officials were more concerned about minimizing scandal and keeping Le’s behavior secret, the district allowed the conduct to persist.
     “If the district had done what it should have done Mr. Le would not have been in a position to engage in sexually inappropriate behavior with hundreds of minors who were reportedly current and former Gilroy students,” Allred said.
     Doe’s claims include negligence, negligent supervision, negligent hiring and retention, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, sexual harassment and gender violence.
     She seeks compensatory and other damages.
     Le is currently on paid administrative leave after he was arrested by San Jose police in late April on two counts of felony child enticement.
     Police say that Le engaged in a practice known as “catfishing,” the act of luring someone into an online relationship using a fictional digital persona.
     According to Doe’s complaint, Le posed as a young female and solicited nude photographs from minor boys. Le contacted approximately 500 minors via Facebook, Doe says.
     Along with teaching chemistry and environmental science, Le also coached the track team. He joined the district in 2013.
     Allred is a self-described feminist lawyer, and is noted for taking on high-profile cases involving civil rights.
     A phone call placed to the Gilroy Unified School District seeking comment was not returned as of press time.

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