A teacher convicted of sexually abusing a 14-year-old pupil kept a “Top 10” list of attractive pupils, lawyers for the victim have claimed.
The lawyers, who are representing the victim, now 27, in legal action against the teacher, the West Virginia school and its former principal, say they fear paedophile Ronald Paul Harris, 63, may have targeted many more pupils.
Harris, who was a history teacher and girls’ basketball coach at Oak Glen Middle School in Hancock County, is serving a 10- to 20-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty in September to sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust. As part of a plea deal, five other felony charges were dropped.
In her lawsuit, his victim, identified only as EH, alleges that the school district and former principal David Smith “turned a blind eye” to the ongoing abuse and failed in their duty to protect her.
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Her lawyers said they had interviewed a witness, who allegedly said it was “common knowledge” that Harris had masturbated multiple times on school grounds and kept a “Top 10” list of the most attractive students.
They said they hope their client’s “courage” inspires others abused by Harris to come forward.
“This case is a parent’s worst nightmare,” said lawyer Mary Pat Statler.
“To learn that your child was groomed and sexually abused by a teacher is beyond awful.
“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.”
By the time the girl turned 14, Harris had expressed his romantic and sexual feelings for her, the lawsuit says. He sexually abused her and performed a sex act while they were in a storage cupboard in a media room connected to his classroom.
Fox News reported that on one occasion, Smith, the middle school principal, “attempted to gain access to Harris’s classroom when he was sexually abusing EH, but when he found the door to be locked, he simply ceased trying and began walking away, down the hall,” the lawsuit alleges.
Afterward, EH, a high school pupil who was acting as a teacher’s aide for Harris, allegedly called for the principal, who had a “brief” conversation with Harris and the student, but nothing was done.
“Harris was profusely sweating, visibly and audibly nervous, and outwardly anxious, yet Smith did not address either the locked door situation or Harris’s extremely odd, guilty behavior,” the lawsuit alleges.
The survivor “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,” according to the lawsuit.