Suit Filed Against Broward School Board In Teen Sex Abuse Case
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LAUDERHILL(CBS4) – A Broward high school senior who says he had sex with a teacher at Lauderhill Middle School starting at the age of 13 is speaking out as a prominent attorney and his mother have filed a lawsuit against the Broward School Board.
“I’d like to say my life is ruined,” said the student. “It’s hard for me not to trust people. I am coming forward so other teens won’t be scared. If you feel anything is inappropriate, you should come forward and tell an adult.”
He told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “This was a person that I loved at the time. I thought she was doing some good but she was doing something bad.”
The student’s attorney, Jeff Herman, is calling the student “John Doe” and wants only part of his face shown to protect his identity. He is now 17 and he reportedly had more than 100 sexual contacts with former Lauderhill Middle School teacher Kristen Sullivan over a two-year period starting in the 2008-2009 school year.
Sullivan, who is now 28, accepted a plea deal: three years in prison and no label as a sexual predator. She started serving her sentence in January of 2012 and is expected to serve 25 months, meaning she could be released in February of 2014.
She was originally charged with two counts of sexual battery on a victim between the ages of 12 and 17 by a person with custodial authority.
“Sometimes she would call me out of class and we would go to a back room actually,” said the student. “It all started with me helping her out and then it got to me chilling out and helping her out and giving me things. She gave me gifts like shoes, marijuana. She took me to places I’ve never been before and she made me feel like someone special.”
“I mean she showered me with gifts,” he said.
The mother of “John Doe” told D’Oench, “I feel betrayed. I trusted the school system and teachers. You know you hear these things. You never think it would strike your family.”
Herman said school staff and Broward school officials failed to take corrective measures and took too long to remove Sullivan as a teacher and notify the mother of “John Doe.”
“Teachers should not have sex with their students,” said Herman. “Basically it’s a safety rule and when a school knows and suspects a teacher is having sex with a student, they’ve got to step in and protect that student. That did not happen here.”
“During the 8th grade, she was grooming him by giving him gifts and drugs and special attention,” he said. “She actually took away his virginity. She was with him so often that the Principal and Vice principal kept telling her to stop hanging out with this student but never said anything to the mother.”
“The School Board kept her on even after removing her as a teacher,” said Herman. “Even if there is just a rumor, Schools must err on the side of caution. He said the Assistant Principal of Lauderhill Middle School, Antonio Lindsay, had actual notice that Sullivan was engaged in a “sexually inappropriate relationship with John Doe.”
He also said the school’s administration and staff as well as School Board officials became aware that Sullivan was “engaging in sexually inappropriate conduct and/or sexual intercourse with John Doe.”
He said due to the School Board’s “lack of corrective measures,” Sullivan “continued to spend time with John Doe in her classroom alone, take John Doe home from school alone, play John Doe with gifts and drugs and take John Doe to other places around campus alone, where she engaged in sexual harassment and sexual acts.”
Herman said he is demanding a jury trial in his federal lawsuit. He said he has not named a dollar amount in his lawsuit but he said verdicts on behalf of such clients have often resulted in settlements of “millions of dollars.”
He said the Broward School Board was negligent and violated a Title 9 regulation that guarantees “freedom from sex harassment.”
Herman’s lawsuit, John Doe No. 103 v. School Board of Broward County, refers to the “rape and sexual assault of a minor” and says “John Doe” has “suffered severe and permanent physical and psychological injuries, mental anguish, pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.”
A spokeswoman for the Broward School Board told D’Oench the School Board had “no comment.”
The mother of “John Doe” is livid.
“I feel if they say things are going on at the school and they had to remove her and I was the last to know, at the very least I should know something, even if they didn’t have all the proof. I should have been told something. This has upset our family structure.”
The mother said she is a single parent who lives “just a half mile away” from Lauderhill Middle School.