The family of a former sixth-grader, who in February dropped a $15,000 civil suit against the Liberty County School System over a teacher’s conduct, filed another suit in the U.S. District Court in Savannah last week.
The initial suit alleged that LCSS failed to react appropriately when a Lewis Frasier Middle School teacher reportedly sent sexually explicit messages to and inappropriately touched the student.
In December 2010, LFMS math teacher Roosevelt Tazewell was charged with criminal intent to entice a child for indecent purposes and child molestation, according to previous Courier reports.
While the previous suit only was against the system, the federal suit also names Tazewell, along with LCSS administrators Dr. Judy Scherer, Mary Alexander and Tom Alexander, as defendants.
The suit was filed by attorney Eugene Felton on May 24. It seeks a jury trial and compensatory, general and special damages in an amount to be shown at trial, as well as attorney’s fees from LCSS, Scherer and the Alexanders. It also seeks attorney’s fees and punitive damages from Tazewell and asks that LCSS administrators be compelled to comply with laws on child abuse reporting.
“The school system stands by its statement that it acted promptly and appropriately in the case,” Scherer, who is the county’s superintendent of schools, said Tuesday.
The federal suit claims that Scherer, Assistant Superintendent Mary Alexander and then-LFMS Principal Tom Alexander conspired to handle the incidents internally and failed to report them to authorities.
The suit claims the administrators deprived the plaintiff of constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment because they failed to protect the plantiff from Tazewell.
“The sexual nature of the relationship that defendant Tazewell was having with plaintiff was discovered on or around November 2010,” the lawsuit said.
It alleges that a teacher reported the incident to Tom Alexander, and he referred the matter to his assistant principal.
About Nov. 9, 2010, the plaintiff’s father sought a conference with Scherer, who was not available, the suit said. Instead, the plaintiff’s father met with Mary Alexander.
“Defendant M. Alexander informed plaintiff’s father that the matter was a personnel matter and that the school would handle it from that perspective,” the suit said. “Superintendent defendant Scherer spoke with plaintiff’s father and told him that the matter was being handled as a personnel matter.”
The suit said the father disagreed with the administrators’ assessment and reported it to authorities.
A Hinesville Police Department report says the girl’s father reported the notes on Nov. 8, 2010. The notes and case were handed over to Det. Melvin “Butch” Kesner.
Kesner said the BoE also reported the case shortly after the father.
“The school did follow the school protocol, and the BoE cooperated with the investigation,” Kesner said.
The suit also alleges that Tazewell inappropriately touched the student in October and November 2010.
“The actions and conduct of defendant Tazewell were extreme and outrageous” and “caused plaintiff to suffer severe emotional distress,” the suit said.
Five evidence exhibits filed with the suit included copies of graphic communications Tazewell allegedly had with the plaintiff using Myspace.com and a hand-written note.
A grand jury indicted Tazewell on criminal intent to entice a child for indecent purposes and child molestation on April 9.
On the same day, court records indicate Tazewell waived arraignment and entered a not guilty plea.