OPELIKA, Ala. (CN) - Parents claim in court that their daughter's high school knew its cheerleading coach was having a sexual relationship with their 15-year-old daughter, but refused to act until the teacher "was caught in a school classroom committing sodomy upon" the girl.
In their federal complaint, the parents say school officials ignored clear evidence: inappropriate text messages and emails the coach sent their daughter, allowing the relationship to continue. The girl eventually attempted suicide, and the coach was arrested, the parents say.
On behalf of their daughter, M., parents C.K. and J.K. sued the Russell County Board of Education, Russell County School District, Phenix City Board of Education, Phenix City School District, Superintendent Larry DiChiara, Central Freshman Academy Principal Mrs. Phillips, Academy athletics director David Wilson and coach Jennifer Dawn Young, alleging negligence, invasion of privacy, and assault and battery.
In June 2010, M., 15, was a student at Central Freshman Academy, where Young was her cheerleading coach, according to the complaint.
"The defendant, Young, on a consistent basis, made inappropriate comments and sexual overtures toward the plaintiff," the complaint states. "The defendant Young sent the plaintiff numerous inappropriate text messages and e-mails. Between June 2010 and March 2011, the defendant Young lured the plaintiff into an emotional relationship, which ultimately became sexual. The defendant Young touched, kissed, fondled, rubbed and committed sodomy on the plaintiff at different times from June 2010 through March 2011. This conduct was pervasive and created a sexually hostile environment for plaintiff. The defendant Young also provided the minor plaintiff with numerous gifts, including clothes and a Rolex watch.
"As a result of the sexual harassment, assault and sodomy, (M.) suffered severe emotional distress, pain, anguish, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of educational opportunity, loss of liberty, physical and emotional trauma, including an attempted suicide.
"The plaintiff's parents made numerous complaints about their suspicions concerning the relationship between Young and the plaintiff to each of the named defendants in this lawsuit. The plaintiff's parents provided copies of inappropriate text messages and emails to the defendants, had personal meetings with the defendants and requested the defendant Young be removed from her position at the school and removed from further contact with the plaintiff. Despite their knowledge due to complaints by the plaintiff's parents, the defendants failed to suspend or terminated the defendant Young's employment during the fall of 2010 or spring of 2011. As a result, the inappropriate sexual relationship continued. The defendants, with knowledge that an inappropriate sexual relationship was ongoing between the defendant Young and the plaintiff, failed to reprimand, suspend or terminate defendant Young, thus allowing the inappropriate relationship to continue. Ultimately in March 2011, the defendant Young was caught, in a school classroom, committing sodomy upon the plaintiff. Subsequent to this event, the defendant Young was terminated from her employment and has since been arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and sodomy."
The parents add: "Defendants Russell Board, Russell District, Phenix City Board, and Phenix City District and their officials have not promulgated or distributed an official grievance procedure for lodging sexual harassment complaints; nor had they issued a formal anti-harassment policy at the time of the events made the subject of this lawsuit. The same defendants failed to perform a background check on the defendant Young prior to employing her. Such a background would have revealed that the defendant Young had a history that would have made it inappropriate for her to be hired into the school system."
The parents want the school ordered to provide sexual harassment training for employees and students, to set up a task force to monitor sexual harassment, and create a quarterly report detailing the effectiveness of the anti-sexual harassment procedures.
They also seek costs of psychological and medical treatment, and compensatory and punitive damages for negligence, wantonness, civil rights violations, privacy invasion, assault and battery and outrage.
They are represented by Richard Horsley of Birmingham.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.