An elementary school student and her parents are suing the Grain Valley School District, alleging negligence in its supervision of a teacher who pleaded guilty this month to multiple counts of child sexual abuse.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court, alleges that the girl, while a second-grader in the 2011-2012 school year, was abused by Matthew J. Nelson, a former district elementary school teacher.
The suit names names Nelson, the school district and several district administrators.
The family is alleging negligence, negligent supervision and intentional infliction of emotional distress. School district officials also failed to take action against Nelson, allowing him to remain in a position of authority over students, according to the lawsuit.
Since the alleged offenses, the girl has suffered from depression and sadness and once tied a rope around her neck and tightened it.
Kim Roam, a Blue Springs lawyer who represents the school district, said he had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment.
Nelson, now 34, admitted earlier this month that he sexually abused 11 boys. Sentencing has been scheduled for April 25.
According to the lawsuit, Nelson began abusing the girl, identified as “Plaintiff Jane Doe,” when she was 7.
During the 2011 school year, the suit alleges, Nelson “began an ongoing, repeated and continuous practice of fondling, holding, kissing and otherwise inappropriately touching and assaulting Plaintiff Jane Doe, including such specific acts as touching her private area, touching her legs, and inner thighs, and requiring Plaintiff Jane Doe to stand between his legs while he sat at his desk in the classroom.”
Further, the school district officials knew about prior inappropriate contact by Nelson against at least one other Grain Valley student, the lawsuit alleges. At one point, it adds, administrators spoke to Nelson but otherwise failed to take adequate action against him.
Authorities arrested Nelson in January 2012 after several students alleged he had touched their genitals either through or inside their clothing.
Prosecutors filed initial charges based on allegations made by four children. More charges followed in February.
In a letter released that month, district officials said that a “concern” regarding Nelson had been brought to their attention in 2008.
That allegation originated in an anonymous report called into the Missouri School Violence Hotline. District officials said they discussed the allegation with Nelson at that time but added that the “generic nature” of the report didn’t lead them in any particular direction.
The incidents to which Nelson pleaded guilty occurred from August 2008 through January 2012.
“The widespread multi-year nature of the abuse involving so many children is difficult to comprehend,” said Andrew Smith, lawyer with Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, the Independence law firm that is representing the family.