Fayette schools in new lawsuit

bortiz@herald-leader.comJuly 12, 2008 

A class action lawsuit over sex abuse allegations dating back to the 1970s has been filed against the Fayette County school board.

The lawsuit, filed in Fayette Circuit Court on Tuesday, is not public record because it is about sex abuse allegations that are more than five years old, said lawyer Charles Arnold, who represents the plaintiffs. Kentucky law requires that such suits be filed under seal.

Arnold declined to discuss details of the allegations. He said there are four named plaintiffs, and that the school board is the only defendant.

“We believe these things need to see the light of day, but we are bound” by the law, Arnold said.

School officials declined to discuss the suit in detail.

“It's difficult to comment on allegations regarding the 1970s,” spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said. “But the Fayette County Board of Education has had policies and procedures in place along with a recent history that shows that our district does not condone or tolerate any type of sexual harassment or abuse.”

The lawsuit was filed about a year after Carol Lynne Maner won a $3.9 million verdict against the school board. A jury found that the school board had ignored Maner's allegations of sex abuse by six employees at Beaumont Junior High School and Lafayette High School in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

In the trial, Maner's attorneys argued that teachers during that period brazenly had sex with students without any fear of reprisal.

Maner said Friday that 33 people who said they were sexually abused stepped forward within four months after her trial verdict. She did not know whether any of those people are plaintiffs in the suit. She said that she was not aware of this week's lawsuit.

“I think that it (sex abuse) probably was pretty widespread,” Maner said.

The lawsuit was filed by Arnold and Chris Miller, the same attorneys who represented Maner in her suit.

The school board has had to address other dated allegations of sex abuse in recent years.

A well known Lexington music teacher, Charles F. Little Jr., entered an Alford plea last year on charges that he sexually abused three males more than 20 years ago.

Thomas “Beau” Goodman III joined Maner's lawsuit with claims he was sexually exploited by a teacher. He settled his portion of the lawsuit.

Reach Brandon Ortiz at (859) 231-1443 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1443.

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