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Sumner County Board of Education, Former Teacher Sued Over Sexual Battery Case

— October 26, 2020

A civil suit was recently filed against the Sumner County Board of Education and a former teacher accused of sexually assaulting a student.

According to a new civil suit filed in Summer County Circuit Court, the Sumner County Board of Education failed to protect a middle school student from “being sexually harassed and assaulted by his teacher.” The suit claims the Board of Education failed to “act on previous reports of the teacher’s questionable behavior.”

Classroom with teacher at front; image by NeONBRAND, via
Classroom with teacher at front; image by NeONBRAND, via

The suit was filed on behalf of the student’s mother and father, referred to as ‘Mother Doe’ and ‘Father Doe’ in the suit. It names the district and Robert Ring, a former Joe Shafer Middle School teacher as defendants. According to the suit, Ring, 50, worked as a social studies teacher until May 2019 when the allegations began to surface that he had “inappropriate conversations and contact of a sexual nature with more than one student.” 

On June 7, 2019, he was arrested and charged with “two counts each of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and assault for four separate incidents that occurred in April and May of 2019.” Earlier this year, on September 17, Ring “pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated assault.” The three other charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement. He was sentenced to three years’ probation. Once his probation is served, Ring’s record will be “expunged and he won’t have to register as a sex offender.” Additionally, as part of his plea agreement, he must perform 500 hours of community service and pay $630 in restitution.

Penny McElhaney, the attorney representing the plaintiffs said the suit was filed to get justice for the victims. She said:

“The criminal justice system failed the victims by letting a sexual predator off easy…Robert Ring can have his record expunged after serving only three years of probation. His victims and their families will carry the scars of this abuse for the rest of their lives.”

What happened, though? For starters, ‘Victim Doe’ was a 12-year-old student in Ring’s class when the alleged abuse happened between April and May 2019. The suit claims Ring isolated the student several times “so that he could have inappropriate sexual conversations with him – often by assigning the student to lunchtime detention or keeping him in his classroom during recess.” The suit further alleges several other inappropriate actions occurred, including that the teacher simulated “masturbation with a rolled-up poster and encouraged the student to try drugs and alcohol and to call him if he ever needed a ride.” To make matters worse, the suit claims “Ring touched the boy inappropriately while at the school.”

Things escalated on May 16, 2019, when the student became so “afraid that things were escalating that he didn’t want to be alone with Ring the next day.” That night, the student told his parents what was happening, and his parents met with the principal the very next day. From there, local authorities were contacted and Ring was suspended. 

The suit further argues the school was negligent because it failed to act sooner to protect students like ‘Victim Doe.’ It states:

“Prior to the incidents involving Victim Doe, managers, school personnel, employees, agents, and servants of Sumner County Board of Education had received other reports of inappropriate and explicit conversations that defendant Robert Ring had with students as well as inappropriate sexual contact.”

McElhaney added:

“According to our investigation, the school system had prior reports of sexual misconduct by Robert Ring…They knew this teacher was a predator, and they did nothing. They allowed a sexual predator to continue to prey upon innocent children entrusted to his care. These types of institutional cover-ups have to stop.”

As a result of the ordeal, the student suffers from nightmares and PTSD. The suit is asking for a jury trial and $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages.


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