Mother sues Breathitt schools, alleging officials failed to protect daughter

bestep@herald-leader.comSeptember 15, 2011 

A Breathitt County teacher continued to have sexual contact with a middle school girl after administrators failed to investigate claims about the alleged abuse, the girl's mother contends in a federal lawsuit.

Administrators did not report the alleged abuse as required or take action to prevent or stop it, the lawsuit claims.

In a related criminal case, several school officials have been charged with failing to report the alleged sexual contact to police and other authorities, a misdemeanor.

Those officials are Superintendent Arch Turner; Reggie Hamilton, principal at Sebastian Middle School; administrator David Napier; and Michael Bowling, a teacher.

The defendants in the civil lawsuit are Turner; Hamilton; three unnamed employees; the school system; and Charles A. Mitchell, a former teacher.

Mitchell is charged with first-degree sexual abuse, third-degree rape, third degree sodomy, use of an electronic device to solicit a minor for sexual contact, use of a minor in a sexual performance and distribution of obscene material.

The charges relate to several girls, Commonwealth's Attorney Darrell Herald has said.

The Herald-Leader does not generally identify accusers or their families.

The lawsuit was filed on the woman's behalf by attorneys Paul Croley of London and Bill Meader of Hyden. It was filed Tuesday in federal court in London.

The abuse was alleged to have happened during the 2010-11 school year, when the girl was a student of Mitchell.

According to the lawsuit, school administrators got complaints about Mitchell allegedly having improper communication or contact with students, particularly the woman's daughter.

Administrators warned Mitchell about his conduct but didn't fire him and took no further action, the lawsuit says.

The officials did not inform parents about Mitchell's conduct, the lawsuit says.

Mitchell continued making advances toward the woman's daughter after school officials knew, or should have known, of the problem, the lawsuit alleges.

Mitchell touched the girl in "grossly inappropriate" ways, emailed her photos of his genitals and sent her many text messages trying to induce her to have sex with him, the lawsuit says.

Many of those acts took place at school or during functions outside the school during school hours, according to the lawsuit.

The girl suffered physical harm and severe psychological damage as a result of the abuse by Mitchell, and has been under the care of a therapist, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit argues the school system and administrators failed to properly train or supervise Mitchell and did not have adequate policies to protect students.

The acts by Mitchell and other school employees violated the girl's rights, including the right to personal security and to seek an education free from abuse, the lawsuit says.

"Human dignity and constitutional rights are violated when any government or government-sponsored educational institution condones or allows deliberate disregard for the rights and educational needs of those under its control," the lawsuit says.

The complaint seeks an unspecified amount of money.

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