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Lawsuit alleges school district knew about sexual abuse

Georgia law requires teachers and school administrators to contact law enforcement when they have reasonable cause to believe that children are being abused, but a lawsuit filed on July 6 alleges that Gwinnett County Public Schools and several of its senior administrators failed to meet this legal duty. The litigation was filed on behalf of one of the victims of Gwinnet High School's former band teacher Villie Jones. Jones is currently incarcerated as he awaits his trial. He faces 21 counts of child molestation and sexual abuse.

Prosecutors claim that Jones began to sexually abuse his students in November 2014, which was only three months after he was hired by Gwinnett High School. The abuse is said to have continued until April 2017. In the lawsuit filed in the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, attorneys from the Atlanta-based law firm Isenberg & Hewitt claim that the school's principal, former principal and several of its employees knew about the abuse and took steps to cover it up.

A student is said to have shown Gwinnett High School's then principal and vice principal a video of Jones acting inappropriately with female students in March 2016. The lawsuit alleges that not only did the school administrators fail to notify the authorities, but they also urged the student involved to delete or destroy the video. The school district is also accused of not properly vetting Jones before hiring him. During a February bond hearing, it emerged that Jones entered into a sexual relationship with a high school student in North Carolina about 10 years ago.

This case reveals how police investigations can sometimes provide crucial evidence to attorneys pursuing premises liability lawsuits on behalf of victims. It also shows that civil suits, which have a lower burden of proof than is the case in a criminal trial, can also be filed against the perpetrators of certain types of crimes.

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Suit: Gwinnett teacher sexually assaulted girls, but school ignored it", Amanda C. Coyne, July 12, 2018

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