A multimillion-dollar federal lawsuit filed this week against the Bath County Schools district includes a disturbing description of a former middle school teacher sentenced last month to five years in prison for sexual abusing his student.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 20 in U.S. District Court, described how the teacher, Darvin Crouch, was covertly videotaped in a vehicle, holding the then 14-year-old girl’s hand, stroking her arm, professing his love for her and announcing his plan to leave his wife and family to marry her when she reached the age 18.
The girl’s grandmother, who is her guardian, filed the lawsuit on her behalf. The teacher’s sexual abuse of the girl began when she was 13 and in the seventh grade and the teacher is 39, the lawsuit said.
Crouch, the girl’s history and social studies teacher, subjected her to sexual “abuse, sexual exploitation, physical abuse, psychological abuse and emotional abuse” from 2015 to 2017, the lawsuit said. Crouch also served as her after-school tutor and supervised other extracurricular events such as school dances which she attended.
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In addition to the school board and Crouch, district employees John Slone, Misty Johnson, Todd Neace, and Hillary Lewis are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Bath school district officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Bath County Middle School officials “knew or had reason to know that Mr. Crouch molested and abused (the girl) and took no action whatsoever to help or protect M.D.F,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit is asking for compensatory damages against each defendant of not less than $25 million and punitive damages against each defendant of not less than $25 million. It is also asking that the Bath County Board of Education be required to properly train and supervise employees to prevent future similar incidents.
“We wanted to go ahead and get the civil matter underway so that we can bring this to a close for this family,” the grandmother’s attorney Nicole Iuliano of Lexington said in an interview. “Obviously, it’s been a daunting year and a half for them, and this child has suffered tremendously.”
Iuliano said she was hoping for “a positive outcome that will effect some change over in Bath County and among all the school systems so that when there are concerns or suspicions that school administrators and teachers ...all come together and act quickly and investigate and protect these students.”
“It’s really unspeakable what we have seen in this case,” Iuliano said.
In the spring of 2016, one of the girl’s fellow students reported to Lewis, the school counselor, that the girl had a “crush” on Crouch and, also, that she was “too close” to Crouch. Ultimately, Lewis told Crouch and the girl to “stay away from each other, “ the lawsuit said.
On another occasion, also in the spring of 2016, the grandmother asked for a school investigation after she discovered a lengthy handwritten letter in which the girl expressed her admiration for Crouch.
Lewis allegedly assured family members that the girl was “having a school girl crush” on Crouch and that she was “confident there was no cause for concern,” the lawsuit said.
Family members persisted in expressing their concern and asked that the girl be transferred to another history and social studies teacher, but school officials said there was no other available teacher.
The lawsuit said that instead of investigating, Lewis and Slone, the principal at the time, relocated the girl’s desk to the hallway or conference room, depending on availability where she would complete bookwork for the remainder of the year.
The girl “suffered humiliation and embarrassment of sitting in the hallway alone during Social Studies while her perpetrator was permitted to continue teaching inside the classroom,” the lawsuit said. “Despite the numerous reports of concerns and calls for investigations to school officials, (the girl) remained under the instruction and supervision of Mr. Crouch for Social Studies for the remainder of the year.”
After moving the girl to the hallway or conference room to do book work, Lewis and Slone each told Mr. Crouch and the girl that they were “in over their heads,” but never acknowledged that to her family.
The girl was given in-school suspension for being late to class because she was spending time with the teacher, but he was not investigated or disciplined, the lawsuit said. When Neace was the girl’s principal when she was in the eighth grade, the lawsuit said, he told her to stay away from the teacher but didn’t relay concerns to her family.
The girl was “thirteen years old when the sexual abuse and exploitation began. The sexual abuse and exploitation included kissing, sexual touching and oral sex. Mr. Crouch had sexual intercourse with” the girl during the spring of her eighth grade year, the lawsuit said.
The girl was 14 years old at the beginning of the spring semester and turned 15 in February, the lawsuit said.
In May 2017 the girl disclosed to a trusted family member, her great aunt, that she was in an intimate relationship with Crouch and hoped the great-aunt could help them spend time together. Under the guise of getting to know what Crouch’s intentions were, the great-aunt covertly videotaped him professing his love for the girl and gave it to law enforcement, the lawsuit said.
Crouch made a confession to law enforcement officials and expressed gratitude at his sentencing that he had been caught, according to the lawsuit.
The girl, who said at his sentencing that she lost her virginity to him when she was barely 15, has transferred from the school district, the lawsuit said.
“Mr. Crouch exploited her youth and innocence,” the lawsuit said.