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S.C. District Sued Over Teacher-Student Affair

(CN) - A South Carolina school district negligently hired a substitute school teacher who had an illicit relationship with 16-year-old student and asked him to buy her marijuana, the parents of the teenager claim in court.

Margaret Ann LaMantia, 25, pleaded guilty to sending a partially nude photograph of herself to the student, and of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She was later sentenced to six years in prison.

In a complaint filed in Beaufort County common pleas court last week, Edith and Ruben Torres contend the school district is liable for LaMantia's actions because it failed to properly supervise and control her after she was hired as a long term substitute Spanish teacher during the 2013-2014 school year.

According to prosecutors, LaMantia and Ruben Torres Jr., who is now 18, first met at Hilton Head Island High School and exchanged phone numbers before Thanksgiving 2013.

The two began texting, and LaMantia sent pictures of her genitalia to Torres through the snapchat phone application a week later. Later, LaManitia asked the student to buy her marijuana, and after he secured a small amount, the two drove around the island for several hours before Torres returned home.

The Beaufort County Sheriff's Department said it learned of LaMantia's activities after Torres's parents filed a report against her.

They told the authorities they found out about the relationship after their son was fired from his job for smelling of marijuana. When the parents questioned their son at length about the situation, he told them about LaMantia.

The Torres family maintains what happened with their son was not an isolated incident.

"Between 2007 and the present time, there have been more than eight reported instances of teachers of BCSD engaging in inappropriate relationships with students," their complaint says.

These incidents, they say, have resulted in eight or more civil lawsuits which have resulted "in verdicts or settlements predicated on negligent and/or grossly negligent hiring, retention, training and/or supervision of BCSD employees that engaged in or were alleged to have engaged in inappropriate and/or illegal and/or immoral relationships with students."

"In the calendar years of 2013-2014, there were at least three reported incidents of criminal charges against employees ... arising out of actions ... involving minor children within BCSD schools," the complaint says.

The plaintiffs assert that BCSD was aware of the issues of protecting students from harm and "Ms. LaMantia was not interviewed, hired, trained, supervised and/or retained in a manner in keeping with BCSD policies regarding the same."

Because of LaMantia and the defendant's negligence, "Plaintiffs suffered injury, grief, trauma, extreme outrage, shock, embarrassment, physical injury, and other damages."

The Torres family seeks actual and punitive damages on claims of gross negligence, negligent hiring, supervision and retention, and outrage.

They are represented by J. Olin McDougall II in Beaufort.

Representatives of the school district were not immediately available to comment on the lawsuit.

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