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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Teen in Teacher Tryst Not Responsible Party

(CN) - A 16-year-old girl who had a sexual relationship with her teacher should not bear a portion of the blame, a Louisiana appeals court ruled.

Steven and Leslie Gillespie sued teacher Lance Duhon as well as the Calcasieu Parish School Board and its insurance company, The parents sued on their own behalf as well as for their daughter.

They alleged that Duhon sent the girl texts asking her to "meet him in his classroom to engage in improper, illegal and sexual acts including, but not limited to, having her perform oral sex on him."

The Gillespies stated that this behavior took place "on an almost daily basis for a number of months."

In addition, the family alleged that the school board was aware of allegations that Duhon had engaged in similar conduct at another high school before he joined the faculty at Sam Houston High School.

Duhon's argument included a claim that the girl was comparatively at fault.

The school board acknowledged that it had investigated the previous allegation against Duhon and fired him after his arrest in 2013.

The trial court ruled in favor of the Gillespies, assigning 40 percent of the blame to the school board and 50 percent to Duhon. The other 10 percent of the blame went to the Gillespies' daughter.

The jury awarded the family $250,000 in compensatory damages. Duhon was also assessed $300,000 in punitive damages.

Both sides appealed the finding that the child was at fault. The Gillespies stated that her blame should be eliminated, while the school board argued that it should be increased to a range of "25 percent to 50 percent fault for her relationship with Lance Duhon."

The Third Circuit Louisiana Court of Appeals agreed with the Gillespies in a decision written by Judge Marc Amy.

He stated that the cases cited by the school board involved parties of "relatively contemporaneous ages," making comparisons to this case "akin to comparing apples and oranges."

"A finding of fault on the part of the minor child in this case is not supportable," Amy added, assigning that portion of the blame to the school board.

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