School Used State Power to Subdue Parents Whose Child Was Sexually Abused: Lawsuit

Eva Fedderly | Courthouse News Service
The parents of a severely autistic 11-year-old boy claim in court that the Broward County School District and others tried to cover up the sexual abuse of their son by one of his female teachers.

In a complaint filed in the county circuit court, the parents of alleged victim describe themselves as “hard-working, salt of the Earth people” who put their trust in the school district, its Liberty Elementary School and various teachers and administrators.

However, they say they discovered their trust was being grossly violated when they received a called in October 2015 from defendant David Levine, who supervised teachers at the elementary school.

According to court documents, Levine called the couple to the officer to tell them a witness – whom he did not identify — had come forward and teacher defendant Amy Traeger had “unlawfully made sexual contact” with their son, who is identified as “John Doe” in the complaint.

In addition, the parents say, they were told there was a video of the incident that “so disturbed and disgusted” Levine that he felt compelled to contact both the Broward County school board and the local police.

“Levine stated that he had begun his own investigation, but he refused to allow John’s parents to review the video recording that he (Levine0 observed and that formed the basis of his report to the police and the Broward County School Board,” the March 14 complaint says.

“Instead of providing John’s parents with the names of witnesses and or copies of the video recording, Levine merely stated that he would conduct his own investigation and ‘get back’ to John’s parents,” it continues.

As for John, his autism is so severe that he is unable to express himself verbally. That of course wasn’t the case with his teacher.

“Traeger, recognizing that she had finally been caught and that her predatory deeds had been captured on film, desperately sent a message to John’s mother wherein Traeger admitted that she kissed John again,” the complaint says. “Traeger not only admitted to the conduct that Levine described to John’s parents, she admitted that the incident that was caught on camera was not the first episode.”

The parents say several weeks passed, but Levine refused to provide them with any additional information. They then had their attorney send a letter to the school district demanding a copy of the tape and information on witnesses.

Instead of giving the information they sought, however, the parents claim the district, “in a most shocking attempt to circle the wagons around the abuser to protect her and further injure the abused minor, Levine … stated that he did not preserve the video recording.”

“Likewise, it [is] most alarming that the attorneys who work in the Office of the General Counsel of the School Board of Broward County did not advise Levine to preserve the video recording, so that state investigators, law enforcement personnel, and John’s parents could review the recording,” the complaint says.

The parents say they then refused to allow their son to return to Liberty Elementary, only to learn that the Broward County School Board would not let him enroll in any other school in the district.

“Instead of trying to assist a minor autistic child, who had been repeatedly sexually battered, Traeger, Levine, Liberty Elementary School, and the Broward County School Board sought to use the power of the state to subdue, harass, and intimidate John’s parents,” the complaint said. “The Defendants used the power of the state to violate John’s civil rights and further victimize him.”

John’s parents are seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as court costs, on claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, vicarious liability, negligence, and violations of the Rehabilitation Act.

They are represented by Kenneth Lewis of Phillips & Phillips in Laurderal Lakes, Fla.

Nadine Drew, a spokesperson for Broward County Public Schools told Courthouse News “Amy Traeger has been reassigned from the school, pending the outcome of a district investigation. However, this is an open investigation and I don’t have any additional information to share.”

Published by Courthouse News Service.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5623 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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