Jesuit High teacher files a harassment lawsuit claiming school protected its top disciplinarian.
Delmy Banegas has filed a lawsuit alleging Lawrence Abshire, a disciplinarian at Jesuit High School known “Top,” made “grossly inappropriate and sexualized comments” to the point the Spanish teacher felt she had no choice but to leave her position. Abshire was at the school for almost three decades before a complaint was filed.
In the suit, Banegas alleges Abshire subjected her to “severe and daily harassment” while she was employed at the Catholic prep school. When she reported what was happening to administrators, she was told that the school had “no formal policy concerning sexual harassment.” However, after she filed, the school submitted a statement defending its steps, saying its investigation into the matter was “both immediate and thorough.”
Banegas’ attorney, Jay Ellwanger, insisted his client “felt compelled to leave her job for fear of continuing harassment, badgering and humiliation.” He added, “Anytime you have an accusation of sexual harassment by a person in power…(institutions) need to be much more careful about policing that kind of activity. That didn’t happen here.”
Abshire began his employment at the religious prep school in 1991 after spending more than two decades in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he rose to the ranks of master sergeant. On his resume are also position as an instructor for Jesuit’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and a year as the head of the MCJROTC program at Franklinton High School. Banegas took her position as a Spanish teacher at Jesuit in 2019.
According to the lawsuit, “Abshire took an interest in Banegas almost immediately after she started working at Jesuit in fall of 2019. He told her early in the school year, I bet when you’re naked, you like what you see.” Banegas alleges that Abshire also “groped her buttocks, remarking that she wouldn’t be bored if she went to his office alone.” Later, he told the Spanish teacher, “I bet you like that pepperoni, especially that Italian sausage,” which the lawsuit stated, “she interpreted as euphemisms for a man’s penis.”
She said she would try to ignore him and made it clear “that she did not enjoy his constant harassment.” She alleged Abshire once said “it isn’t harassment if you enjoy it” and she later began “suffering panic attacks as well as severe mental and emotional distress.” Eventually, the symptoms were so severe, she felt she had to report the disciplinarian. When action wasn’t taken, Banegas alleges she had no chose but to resign.
Records show that Jesuit has general procedural guidelines in place for reporting employee grievances, including first reporting the issue to the human resources department, then to the principal. As legally required, before suing, Banegas filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was issued a “right to sue” letter.
Banegas’ suit is asking for unspecified damages from the school for allegedly being exposed to a “sexually hostile work environment and gender-based discrimination,” among other grievances. The former employee is also seeking to have mandatory training on for all staff on discrimination and sexual harassment.