All parties named as defendants in a federal lawsuit filed against the Liberty County School System and a former teacher have filed answers seeking to have the suit dismissed.
Both answers seek dismissal with prejudice and request that legal costs be cast upon the plaintiff, whose name is withheld to protect her privacy.
The civil suit, filed by attorney Eugene Felton Jr., stems from a 2010 incident where a Lewis Frasier Middle School teacher was arrested and charged with criminal intent to entice a child for indecent purposes and child molestation.
The Public Access to Court Electronic Records system indicates the case was assigned to Judge B. Avant Edenfield and referred to Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith in the Southern District of Georgia.
The suit alleges that Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer, Assistant Superintendent Mary Alexander and then-LFMS Principal Tom Alexander conspired to handle the incident internally and failed to report math teacher Roosevelt Tazewell to authorities.
The LCSS answer, filed by attorney Christian J. Steinmetz, lists 15 defense points to support dismissal.
The system’s defenses include that the plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and that the plaintiff never was deprived of any federal, constitutional or statutory rights as a result of the defendants.
The answer also seeks to dismiss Scherer and the Alexanders as individual defendants on the basis that they were acting in their official capacities when handling the matter.
Plaintiff’s counsel Eugene Felton filed a response to the answer July 24 that calls the motion to dismiss “premature.”
Felton cites a 1983 Supreme Court ruling that states officials are not immune from personal liability.
Tazewell’s answer, filed July 31 by attorney Andrew S. Johnson, also presents the defense that claims against the individual are barred by operation of law.
Tazewell’s answer also said “plaintiff was never deprived of any federal, constitutional or statutory right as a result of the application or any policy, practice or custom of defendant” and “this defendant never willfully violated any law or regulation and has acted in good faith at all times to comply with applicable laws and regulations.”
A grand jury indicted Tazewell on April 9 on criminal intent to entice a child for indecent purposes and child molestation.
On the same day, court records indicate Tazewell waived arraignment and entered a not-guilty plea.
The LCSS answer makes similar claims.
Another defense in the LCSS answer said that “No act or omission of these defendants … caused or contributed to the occurrence complained of, or to the damages allegedly sustained by Plaintiff.”
“These defendants never willfully violated any law or regulation and have acted in good faith at all times to comply with all applicable laws and regulations,” the LCSS answer said. “Defendants have acted at all times in a legitimate and nondiscriminatory manner.”
It also claims that the plaintiff has failed to mitigate some or all of the alleged damages and asks that claims for damages be reduced or barred.
The system’s answer also said defendants are not liable for injuries allegedly sustained by the plaintiff “because said injuries were caused by an independent intervening intentional act which these defendants had no ability to foresee or anticipate.”
In several instances, the answer claims that LCSS defendants do not have sufficient information to admit or deny allegations against Tazewell, which the suit aims to hold the district accountable for.
Tazewell’s answer also denies several claims and reports to not have sufficient information to admit or deny allegations.
LCSS counsel also denies the suit’s claim that Tom Alexander failed to report the matter to law enforcement after a teacher delivered a note to Alexander on Nov. 8, 2010, that allegedly was written by Tazewell.
LCSS also challenges that the man listed in the suit as the plaintiff’s father is the plaintiff’s step-father and asks the plaintiffs to prove several allegations about how the administration handled parental requests.
The LCSS defendants admit that the listed father, whose initials are withheld to protect the student’s privacy, was the one who reported the case to law enforcement Nov. 8, 2010.
Hinesville Police Department investigator Det. Melvin “Butch” Kesner previously confirmed that the man initially reported the incident, but said that the school system did so shortly after and was cooperative with the investigation.
In addition to asking that the plaintiff’s complaint be dismissed with prejudice, the answer requests legal costs be cast upon the plaintiff.
Though he was listed in the initial suit, the initials of the father-figure do not appear on a plaintiff’s certificate of interested parties filed Aug. 1 or on a certificate of interest parties filed by Tazewell’s counsel July 26.
“The undersigned further certifies that the following is a full and complete list of other persons, firms, partnerships, corporation, or organizations that have a financial interest in, or another interest which could be substantially affected by, the outcome of this case (including a relationship as a parent or holding company or similar relationship),” the documents said.
On Aug. 3, the plaintiff’s counsel filed a notice of alternative dispute resolution form consenting to case resolution through non-binding mediation or a magistrate procedure.
The document indicates that the other parties were served the same form and are able to respond; if the parties unanimously agree to mediation, arbitration or a magistrate judge, counsel for plaintiff shall notify the clerk.