By Kathi Bliss
The parents of a student allegedly involved in a sexual relationship with a former LISD coach have filed a Federal lawsuit against the District and two administrators stand accused of covering up the affair.
The suit, filed on Sept. 19 in the Western District of the United States Federal Court in Austin, alleges the Lockhart High School Principal Monica Guillory and Assistant Superintendent Larry Ramirez received complaints as early as August that Thomas Christopher Knox may have been involved in inappropriate relationships with students.
At the time they received the initial complaints, the suit says, Guillory and Ramirez advised Knox to “change his cell phone number,” and to not make the new number available to students.
Knox was arrested in November 2011 and charged with an inappropriate student-teacher relationship, and faces additional charges in Hays County, where the apartment where he was alleged to have sex with the student is located.
In a statement released last week, attorneys involved in the suit said that Lockhart ISD failed to protect the student from being pursued by Knox.
“These officials were dealing with very serious allegations but yet waited more than a week to even talk to the teacher,” said Derek Howard. “They did too little too late.”
The suit alleges that Ramirez and Guillory received an initial complaint after another administrator in the district received information from a teacher that Knox was carrying on relationships with “current and former” LISD students.
At that time, the suit says, Guillory and Ramirez waited 10 days before discussing the accusations with Knox, who admitted that he had helped a former student purchase a car.
In September 2011, the suit alleges Ramirez received another report, this time from an LISD Board Member, that Knox had kissed a student on the cheek. The student denied the claim, but her mother confirmed the allegation, the suit says.
Again, no disciplinary action was taken against Knox.
In late October, Guillory received information from a teacher that Knox was involved in a relationship with the student “Sarah Doe.” Three days later, Knox was placed on paid administrative leave and CPS was notified about the allegations.
The Lockhart Police Department opened their investigationinto the matter on Nov. 1.
The suit is asking for unspecified monetary damages.
“Under state law and district policy, the school district has a responsibility to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual abuse of a child,” Howard said. “In this case, however, the effort fell woefully short. Had earlier allegations of sexual abuse by the teacher been reported as required by state law and district policy the acts against our client could have been prevented. Instead, she was left as prey to the acts of a sexual predator, which began after school officials learned of earlier allegations of improper behavior by the teacher.”
LISD vehemently denies the allegations.
In a statement released to the media on Tuesday afternoon, LISD Superintendent Dr. Jose Parra said the District plans to vigorously defend against the allegations.
“These allegations are exactly that: allegations,” the statement said. “The Plaintiffs have painted a picture that accuses some good administrators of outrageous conduct, and a school district of incompetence. While such inflammatory remarks make for great headlines, they have little bearing on the truth.”
Because the case is pending, however, Parra declined any further comment on the case.