School Ignored Predator, Family Says

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – Parents say a West Muskingum High School teacher sexually assaulted their daughter, and that the school district ignored his history of “lewd and inappropriate relationships” with his students, and concealed and failed to report it after they knew it. The art teacher is now in prison, the parents say.




     In their federal complaint, the Doe family says that had the West Muskingum County Board of Education bothered to check, they would have learned that Andrew Hoffer had been forced to resign from his previous teaching position, for his “inappropriate sexual remarks and innuendos to female students during class time.”
     “Since at least 2002, Hoffer has sexually assaulted and harassed several of his minor, female students enrolled in Ohio high schools,” the family says. “Most recently, Hoffer sexually assaulted and harassed Student Doe and other female students of WMHS.”
     The district “recklessly and wantonly” hired Hoffer in 2007 “without conducting an adequate background check of his employment history,” and/or “knew or should have known, through reasonable investigation that Hoffer had a history of engaging in dangerous conduct with minor female students,” the family says.
     They say that “Hoffer began preying on WMHS’s female students immediately after he was hired,” that rumors about it began in his first year at the school, and that by September 2008 the allegations were “so severe” that three teachers complained to administrators about it.
     Complaints included that Hoffer verbally and physically harassed girls, inappropriately called and text-messaged and emailed them, the complaint states.
     It adds: “Hoffer was known to ask female students if they were a virgin; if they were attracted to persons of the same sex; if they had engaged in sexual conduct with a person of the same sex; how many sexual partners they had had; if they would engage in sexual conduct with a teacher for $1 million; if they would engage in sexual conduct with anybody for money; how far would they go on a first date; and whether they would prefer to see two guys ‘going at it’ or two girls ‘going at it.'”
     Despite the teachers’ complaint to defendant principal Raymond Peyton, Peyton did not fire Hoffer or report him “to any state or district authorities,” the Does say.
     Instead, they say, Peyton met more than once to “privately” for “discussions.”
     Had the district acted appropriately, the Does say, Hoffer would not have been able to sexually assault their daughter during the second half of the 2009-10 school year.
     His abuses did not stop until a parent called the school to tell it that she had reported Hoffer to the police, the Does say. Only then did Peyton begin investigating Hoffer, and report him to the superintendent, defendant Sharon Smith, according to the complaint.
     The Does seek punitive damages for recklessness, wantonness, sex discrimination, negligence, and other claims. Hoffer is now an inmate in an Ohio state prison, according to the complaint.
     The Does are represented by Rex Elliott with Cooper & Elliott.

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