The teacher has since pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and is now serving a 10- to 20-year prison sentence. Attorneys believe that he may victimized multiple children. 1
A West Virginia family has filed an alarming lawsuit, alleging that a Hancock County school district turned a blind eye to the sexual predations of a former teacher.
According to FOX News, Ronald Paul Harris, now 63 years old, admitted in criminal court to molesting a 14-year-old student while employed as a history teacher and basketball coach at Oak Glen Middle School.
The 14-year-old student, who is now 27, filed the lawsuit against Harris, the school board, and then-Principal David Smith, who now administers the local high school.
The lawsuit broadly alleges that education officials failed to protect young students from Harris, despite clear-cut warning signs.
Attorneys for the 27-year-old plaintiff, identified in court documents only by the initials “E.H.,” say that Harris likely abused other students and hope that their client’s “courage” will inspire other victims to step forward.
“This case is a parent’s worst nightmare,” said Mary Pat Statler, an attorney representing E.H. and her parents.
“To learn that your child was groomed and sexually abused by a teacher is beyond awful,” Statler said. “It’s made even more terrible knowing that the administrator at the time of the abuse was in a position to stop the abuse or prevent future instances of abuse and instead turned a blind eye.”
Harris, writes FOX News, pleaded guilty last September to sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust. He has since been sentenced and is serving a 10- to 20-year prison sentence.
As part of Harris’s plea deal, five other felony charges were dismissed.
In her lawsuit, E.H. says that Harris offered to let her serve as his “teacher’s aide,” helping him grade papers after classes let out.
Attorneys note that E.H., then in high school, had to “sign in” to access the middle school campus.
E.H. signed into Oak Glen Middle School at least 10 times.
According to E.H., Harris gradually “escalated his abuse,” expressing romantic and sexual feelings to his underage aide.
Harris masturbated in front of E.H., fondled her, and otherwise abused her.
In one incident, then-Principal Dave Smith “attempted to gain access to Harris’s classroom when he was sexually abusing E.H., but when he found the door to be locked, he simply ceased trying and began walking away, down the hall.”
The lawsuit indicates that E.H. may have reported concerns about Harris to the principal, but no action was taken—despite Harris appearing visibly nervous.
“Harris was profusely sweating, visibly and audibly nervous, and outwardly anxious, yet Smith did not address either the locked door situation or Defendant Harris’s extremely odd, guilty behavior,” the lawsuit alleges.
Attorneys for E.H. say that they interviewed witnesses, at least one of whom said it was common knowledge that Harris frequently masturbated on school grounds and kept a “Top 10” list of students he found attractive.
E.H., the lawsuit states, “spent the majority of her high school career in her bedroom, alone, and stayed away from social gatherings at the school because of the abuse.”