Parents of student sexually assaulted by teacher sue Ohio school district for failure to conduct proper background check
Claiming their daughter was sexually assaulted by her art teacher at West Muskingum High School (WMHS), Courthouse News Service says the parents have filed a federal lawsuit against the West Muskingum County Board of Education (WMCBOE) alleging the school district ignored his history of “lewd and inappropriate relationships” with his students, and concealed and failed to report it after they knew it. The Doe family’s suit charges that had the WMCBOE bothered to check, they would have learned that Andrew Hoffer, currently in state prison, had been forced to resign from his previous teaching position for his “inappropriate sexual remarks and innuendos to female students during class time.”
According to the parents’ suit, “Since at least 2002, Hoffer has sexually assaulted and harassed several of his minor, female students enrolled in Ohio high schools. Most recently, Hoffer sexually assaulted and harassed Student Doe and other female students of WMHS.” The suit also alleges that the district “recklessly and wantonly” hired Hoffer in 2007 “without conducting an adequate background check of his employment history,” and/or “knew or should have known, through reasonable investigation that Hoffer had a history of engaging in dangerous conduct with minor female students,” the family says. In addition, it charges ”Hoffer began preying on WMHS’s female students immediately after he was hired,” that rumors about it began in his first year at the school, and that by September 2008 the allegations were “so severe” that three teachers complained to administrators about it.
The suit contents that despite the teachers’ complaint to WMHS Principal Raymond Peyton, Peyton did not fire Hoffer or report him “to any state or district authorities” and, instead, met with the teacher more than once “privately” for “discussions.” The parents’ suit claims that had the district acted appropriately, Hoffer would not have been able to sexually assault their daughter during the second half of the 2009-10 school year. The suit charges that Hoffer’s abuses did not stop until a parent called the school to tell school officials that she had reported Hoffer to the police, the Does say. Only then did Peyton begin investigating Hoffer, and report him to the superintendent, defendant Sharon Smith, according to the complaint. The Does seek punitive damages for recklessness, wantonness, sex discrimination, negligence, and other claims.
Source: Courthouse News Service, 4/1/11, Kyle Ann Uniss
[Editor's Note: The Doe's legal complaint is available at the first link below. In December 2010, Education Week reported that the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) had issued a study finding that schools in some cases have hired individuals with histories of sexual misconduct as teachers, coaches, janitors, and administrators, partly because of lax systems of background checks. The GAO documented 15 cases in which individuals guilty of past misconduct were hired or retained by schools. In 11 of those cases, the individuals in question had previously targeted children, and in six of them, the offenders used their new positions to abuse more children.]