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Victim Says School Gave Molester a Free Pass

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) - When a high school freshman's mother told the principal that a male teacher had sexually molested her son, the school suspended the boy, but let the teacher keep working, the student says. The teacher was convicted of seven sex charges and sentenced to 50 years in prison, according to the federal complaint.

The student, C.B., claims teacher Lee Tibbetts trapped him in a classroom at John Marshall Community High School, and fondled him more than once, and the school promised, but failed, to investigate.

Tibbetts was convicted in August of "six felony counts of child molesting and a count of vicarious sexual gratification," according to the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison, with 10 years suspended, according to local media reports.

Before Tibbetts worked at John Marshall he had left his job with Cincinnati Public Schools "while under investigation for propositioning a student," the complaint states.

C.B. claims that in January 2009, "Tibbetts locked C.B. and another student in a classroom with him and attempted to fondle C.B. and touch him in other inappropriate and sexual manners." He says he had to "physically resist" Tibbetts.

In another incident, C.B. says, Tibbetts offered to write him a "hall pass," and again trapped him in the classroom. Tibbetts asked him if he was "dating anyone," tried to fondle him and touched his penis, C.B. says.

C.B.'s mother called the school principal, Jeffrey White, to report the attacks, and White said he would talk to her son about it - but he never did, according to the complaint.

"White never spoke with C.B. Instead, C.B. and the other victim were suspended from school. JMCHS eventually began expulsion proceedings against C.B. and initially reassigned C.B. to an alternative school. However, this decision was ultimately reversed," the complaint states.

"C.B.'s mother attempted to contact White on several occasions. White never returned any of her phone calls.

"IPS [Indianapolis Public Schools] and JMCHS returned Tibbetts to work after learning of C.B.'s allegations."

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights investigated C.B.'s complaints, and found that Tibbetts had sexually harassed the boy. In January this year, the Indianapolis Public Schools and the civil rights office "entered into a settlement agreement without consulting C.B. or his parents," the complaint states. Tibbetts was convicted of the seven sex counts in August.

C.B. demands punitive damages from Tibbetts, Indianapolis Public Schools, and the high school principal, in his official capacity, for sexual harassment, retaliation, negligent hiring, negligent retention, assault and battery, false imprisonment and emotional distress. He is represented by William Krowl of Evansville.

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