EVA-MARIE AYALA The Dallas Morning News
Published: 09 July 2012 04:57 PM
It Appears that the Cedar Hill School District is not the only school district where protecting the health and welfare of the students ranks second to protecting the very teachers who violates the children.
According to this article by Eva-Marie Ayala of The Dallas Morning News a lawsuit was bought by a group of parents against the Plano, Texas school district for its failure to protect their children against a sexual predator.
Parents of three elementary students filed a federal lawsuit against the Plano school district and a former principal alleging that the administrator’s indifference led to the girls’ assaults by a kindergarten teacher.
The suit alleges that various Hunt Elementary School teachers and parents repeatedly brought up concerns about a teacher’s behavior with young girls but that Principal Linda Engelking continued to disregard them, choosing instead to protect the teacher.
Engelking could not be reached for comment. District officials said she retired at the end of this school year after 33 years with the district.
“Plano ISD has not been served with the lawsuit, but we understand it has been filed,” district spokeswoman Lesley Range-Stanton wrote in response to The Dallas Morning News’ query about the suit. “Our attorneys will be in communication upon review.”
The parents are only identified as John Doe or Jane Doe as the victims are minors.
Former teacher Joseph Garbarini is not specifically named in the suit. However, the lawsuit references incidents that occurred at Hunt regarding a kindergarten teacher during the 2009-10 school year. That was the year Garbarini was arrested on suspicion of fondling students. Last year, he was found guilty of sexual misconduct involving two students and sentenced to 62 years in prison.
The federal lawsuit filed last week alleges that the principal allowed the assaults to occur because of her loyalty to the teacher.
According to the suit, various teachers reported concerns to Engelking that the teacher was engaging in inappropriate behavior with female students including tickling, allowing them to sit on his lap and – in at least one instance – standing and holding a girl by her bottom while she straddled her legs around his waist. It was also known by many at the school that he kept children’s clothing in his classroom in case female students needed a change of clothes because of an “accident.”
But the teacher fabricated reasons to change the three girls’ clothes so that he could sexually abuse them, according to the lawsuit.
The suit alleges that various parents tried to have their children reassigned from his class because they were concerned about the safety of their children with him.
After a report about inappropriate tickling was reported to her, the suit alleges that Engelking had a conversation with him but failed to follow through on it.
“She simply did not care,” the suit alleges. “She did not make contact with the family of the victim who (was) the subject of the tickling complaint to find out more specifics about what had occurred, as part of developing a fuller understanding of what response she should make to the complaint.”
The suit further alleges that the teacher told Engelking that he could not guarantee that his inappropriate behavior would stop because he was not aware what he was doing wrong. He told the principal that his actions were innocent but suggested another teacher look in on him and signal to him if he was doing something inappropriate, according to the lawsuit.
Engelking did not make sure another teacher was checking on him after that, the suit alleges.
She later wrote after her meeting with him that “I value my male teachers too much to let these small things get in the way of their teaching,” according to the lawsuit.