The plaintiff seeking $15,000 in damages from the Liberty County School System voluntarily dismissed the suit Thursday, one day before Judge David L. Cavender was to hear a pre-trial motion to dismiss.
The Chestnut Firm attorney Jule Lassiter filed the suit Nov. 7 on behalf of an unnamed student and her family, alleging that the district did not do enough to prevent and react to one of its teachers allegedly engaging in sexually inappropriate activity with the student.
As the Courier previously reported, Lewis Frasier Middle School sixth-grade math teacher Roosevelt Tazewell was arrested Dec. 10, 2010, on charges of criminal intent to entice a child — the plaintiff in this case — for indecent purposes and child molestation.
Earlier this week, a grand jury indicted Tazewell on two charges of criminal attempt to commit a felony, one for indecent purposes and the other for child molestation, according to Liberty County Clerk of Courts Clerk and Court Administrator Barry Wilkes. He said Tazewell’s case will move forward to arraignments once a judge is assigned.
During the Superior Court civil hearing Friday, the school system’s attorney, Chris Steinmetz, appeared, but neither the plaintiff nor its counsel was present.
As Cavender called attendance in each of the cases, he told Steinmetz that the plaintiff emailed him a voluntary dismissal Thursday. Steinmetz said he had no knowledge of the dismissal.
“If it was, your honor, I was not copied,” he said. “I am not in any shape or otherwise contesting, but … is there any way I can verify that?”
Cavender said the case had been dismissed without prejudice and excused Steinmetz to confirm it with the Clerk of Court’s office. A few minutes later, Steinmetz re-entered the courtroom and addressed Cavender again to request documentation of the dismissal.
“It’s dismissed without prejudice, which means that they can bring this action again,” Steinmetz said after the hearing. “But if they do, we will very vigorously oppose and defend all charges alleged against the school district.”
He said the suit was “wholly improper and that the school board had no liability of any kind,” and added that the suit was “frivolous and lodged without substantial basis in law or in fact as to the school district and its administration.”
A member of the plaintiff’s family, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of the minor, gave the Courier the following statement but declined to elaborate: “Today was an exceptional day to our justice, and the Chestnut Firm is an exceptional law firm.”
On Dec. 16, Steinmetz filed a motion to dismiss the case with prejudice on grounds of sovereign immunity alongside his response denying the claims in the suit.
“What the constitution provides is that, essentially, acts that are committed by individuals not in furtherance of their employment cannot be attributed to their employer.
“They can’t go after the school district — they can go after him all they want, …” he said. “Let’s put it this way: You are a reporter; you are reporting on something, and let’s say that you decide to punch (Deputy Superintendent) Dr. Conley in the nose. That’s not part of your job description — that’s outside the scope of your job. The claims alleged in this lawsuit are not inside the scope of being a teacher.”
Though few details about the allegations against Tazewell have been released by the police, the incident allegedly occurred on or around Oct. 18, 2010, and was reported to the Hinesville Police Department on Nov. 8, 2010. The student’s parents found the notes in her locker, according to the incident report.
The Courier’s attempts to reach the plaintiff’s counsel at the Gainesville, Fla.-based Chestnut Firm were not successful by press time.