INDIANAPOLIS — Southern Hancock School officials are facing a lawsuit amid allegations they failed to fire a teaching assistant they knew was a threat to children — the same educator who was later convicted of battery on a student.
The lawsuit filed Monday by the victim’s parents names the school corporation as well as former fitness assistant and wrestling coach Bryan Turner, who they say caused “unthinkable physical, mental and emotional anguish,” to their son, according to the complaint.
Turner was overseeing a gym class at Doe Creek Middle School in 2010 when their son was struck in the groin during a game of dodgeball.
The lawsuit notes that Turner’s position as an assistant gym teacher required him to assess students injured during class, but Turner’s actions that day went too far, the family said.
Turner took the boy to the boys’ locker room and shut the door behind them, according to court documents. There, the affidavit states, Turner fondled the boy.
The lawsuit, filed in Marion County, where the victim’s family now lives, comes almost two years after Turner pleaded guilty to battery in the case.
But the victim’s parents say that abuse might never have happened had Southern Hancock officials heeded warnings from Turner’s colleagues.
A former gym teacher at Doe Creek Middle School told school officials Turner often acted inappropriately, that he would “run his hands through the hair of male students, tell them they had ‘sexy bodies’ and put his hands in their waistbands,” the lawsuit states.
But the family said school officials took no action after the teacher came forward.
The teacher went to a superior who told her he “didn’t need a weekly report on all of this stuff and that she should only come to him in a ‘big-enough situation,’” the lawsuit states.
Southern Hancock officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying they had not yet received a copy of the complaint, but issued this statement Monday afternoon: “… the school corporation takes allegations of misconduct seriously and strives to take immediate appropriate remedial action to protect the students, staff and faculty of the Community School Corp. of Southern Hancock County.”
Turner, who was sentenced to 1½ years on probation, was originally charged with child molest; a neglect charge was later added. Those charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement allowing Turner to plead guilty to felony battery.
Because Turner was not convicted of any sex crimes, he was not listed on the sex offender registry.
Prosecutors at the time said they hoped the felony charge would prohibit Turner from working with children.
Turner was first employed by the Southern Hancock school district in 1980. He worked until 1983 as a substitute teacher and assistant wrestling coach.
After leaving New Palestine, Turner served as a head wrestling coach for the Greenfield-Central School Corp. from 1989-93.
Turner then worked as a study hall supervisor at New Palestine High School from 1996-97 before becoming a substitute teacher for the district from 2003-11, when he resigned.
The victim’s parents say their son suffered long-term emotional damage as a result of the assault. They have struggled to pay medical bills seeking care for the boy after the incident, the lawsuit states.
In an interview Monday with the Daily Reporter, the victim’s father said his son changed dramatically after the incident with Turner.
The formerly happy, likeable student became angry and prone to outbursts at school, he said.
The boy didn’t come forward until about a year after the incident, but looking back, his parents said it is clear what caused the changes.
They are asking the court to hold Turner and the school corporation accountable for Turner’s negligence and compensate them for the hardship the incident has caused.
The lawsuit does not name a dollar amount the victim’s parents are seeking; they ask for the court to “award them damages sufficient to compensate them for all damage resulting from Turner’s actions.”
Turner could not be reached for comment.