LAS VEGAS (CN) - A North Las Vegas elementary schoolteacher sexually molested students for years after the school district merely transferred him, rather than fire him, after his first arrest, parents of victims say in a federal class action.
Jeremiah Mazo is serving 15 to 60 years in state prison after pleading guilty in December to three counts of attempted lewdness with a child. He was charged with 32 counts.
Two sets of John and Jane Doe parents sued Mazo and Clark County School District on Feb. 5, seeking class certification for 30 or more students and punitive damages for sexual assault, negligence and seven other claims.
Mazo, 54, was a longtime music teacher at Hayden Elementary School in North Las Vegas, where he molested Joann Does I and II, who are 9 and 10 years old.
Mazo was arrested in April 2015 after one of the girls, then 8, told her parents, and police, that Mazo had molested her repeatedly.
It was Mazo's second such arrest. North Las Vegas Police arrested him in 2008, and he was charged with sexually molesting students while teaching at Simmons Elementary, but those charges were dismissed. The school district then transferred him to Hayden Elementary, without any "policies, procedures or parameters" to protect students from him, the parents say.
Mazo continued to molest children at Hayden Elementary for six years, the parents say in the complaint.
"From August 2012 through April 2015, Mazo would ask Joann Doe I to sit with him behind his desk, and after the other students had been dismissed from his music class, he would touch her buttock, and he would rub her private parts, both under her trousers as well as over her clothing," according to the complaint.
Joann Doe I "objected to going to school, threw temper tantrums in the mornings to avoid going to school, and currently she says she does not want to have any children because she fears someone will do the same thing to her children that Mazo did to her," her parents say.
He did the same thing to Joann Doe II, asking her to stay after class and sit on his lap, while he touched her buttocks and rubbed her private parts, according to the complaint.
During these repeated molestations, Joann II "did not want to go to school, refused to do her household chores, fought with her parents and her brother, and could not fall asleep at night," her parents say.
When her mother patted her daughter on the behind, Joann became very angry, and she always was upset on Wednesdays, when Mazo taught her music class.
Joann II is still afraid, because even though Mazo is behind bars, he told her she would be transferred to another school if she told anyone what he was doing, and she was afraid to go to school because she thought other students would blame her for Mazo's arrest, her parents say.
At a Thursday news conference, the families' attorney Robert Eglet said the school district had ample notice that Mazo was a sexual predator and did nothing to independently investigate the matter or inform students how to report improper conduct.
The Does seek class certification and punitive damages for sexual assault, assault and battery claims against Mazo, and Title IX, negligence, failure to warn, emotional distress and vicarious liability claims against the school district.
Clark County School District does not comment on pending lawsuits.
The tragedy in North Las Vegas is just the latest in a string of dozens or hundreds of such cases, in which public school districts quietly pass along a suspected molester, for fear of embarrassing the school district, attorneys familiar with such cases say.
The most-publicized case was that of John Boone, who molested at least 58 Hopi students in Arizona after another school district had quietly passed him along. The United States eventually paid a $13 million to the families, because Boone worked at Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools. One of his victims shot himself to death in front of his family.
An independent investigation determined that Boone had molested at least 94 young Hopi boys: 5 percent of the tribe's age cohort. Boone is serving life in prison.
At Mazo's sentencing hearing on Dec. 9 last year, he sang a Christian hymn and told the judge that Jesus had already forgiven him. Then he was led away in handcuffs.
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