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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Parents Claim School Covered for Abuser

MEDFORD, Ore. (CN) - A fourth-grade teacher molested three little girls years after the Medford School District knew that he had "inappropriately" touched other girls in his classroom "to sexually gratify himself," parents claim in Federal Court. The parents say the molester also took pictures of the girls and put them on Facebook.

Parents of the three Jane Does say the Medford School District hid the fact that the teacher, Chris Gilman, was on probation for his earlier actions.

Gilman, an Oregon teacher since 1996, admitted in 2004 to having "inappropriately touched" girls in his fourth-grade class during the previous year at Howard Elementary School, according to the complaint.

"Gilman had inappropriately and in a manner to sexually gratify himself groomed and then repeatedly touched fourth grade female students in his class on their bottoms, legs and abdomens and had them sit on his lap during school hours while he was teaching his fourth grade class and also during recess time when other students were not present in the classroom," the complaint states.

The State of Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission let him keep teaching, the parents say, putting him on 2 years of probation and requiring him to seek counseling and send "periodic reports" on "his fitness to teach minor female students" to Medford School District Superintendent Phil Long and Howard Elementary School Principal Sallie Johnson.

Each year after that, the parents say, Johnson sent an annual "principal's message" to Howard students and their parents. The newsletters specifically mentioned Gilman as an asset to the school, saying he had been a Howard student as a "'tot,'" according to the complaint.

During the 2009-2010 school year, the parents say Gilman "began grooming" the three girls by "showing them favors such as giving them snacks, giving them special assignments such as correcting papers, joking with them to encourage plaintiffs, giving them 'Indian burns' on their arms," the complaint states.

Between the fall of 2009 and February 2010, Gilman began touching the three plaintiff girls and "other girls not named," the parents say.

They claim Gilman touched the girls "by rubbing their buttocks, thighs, waists and abdomens, and private parts up and down during class time. Gilman grabbed the girls and physically restrained them to sit on his lap or stand next to him at his desk while he performed these actions. On at least one occasion, Gilman licked one female student's face, and he took photographs of plaintiffs and placed their photos on Facebook without the plaintiffs' or their parents' permission. Gilman's actions with his female students between 2009 and 2010 had a signature nature that was identical to the ways in which he had touched other 4th grade female students in the past and to which he stipulated in 2004. Gilman did not touch the boys in his class as he did the female plaintiffs," the lawsuit states.

The parents sued the Medford School District, Superintendent Phil Long, Principal Sallie Johnson and Gilman, alleging sexual battery, fraud and false imprisonment. They are represented by Thomas Petersen with Black, Chapman, Webber & Stevens.

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