For more than a decade, a Florida School district maintained that four third-grade girls were responsible for allowing their teacher to sexually abuse them in the classroom.
The students were “old enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions” and “conducted themselves in a careless and negligent manner,” the Palm Beach County School District said in court documents cited by the Sun Sentinel. The documents filed in response to a 2006 civil suit from the third-graders’ families concluded the administrator should not be held responsible in the incident.
Now, the district is poised to pay $3.6 million to settle the 12-year-old lawsuit, marking a shift from claims that it should not be held liable in the abuse, according to the newspaper.
The group of girls, now adults, accused teacher Blake Sinrod of fondling them in their Coral Sunset Elementary School classroom in 2005.
Authorities began to investigate the matter after one of the young students told her mother Sinrod had touched her inappropriately during a reading group and also instructed her to touch his genitals through his pants. Three other girls told similar stories of classroom abuse.
The teacher, now 46, was fired in 2006 and pleaded guilty to child abuse charges involving two of the students in May of the same year. His teaching license was revoked in 2008.
The school board is expected to approve the $3.6 million settlement on Oct. 18. The amount was negotiated during mediation, Marc Wites, attorney for the four girls, said.
“I don’t think a child can ever consent to being sexually abused,” School board member Frank Barbieri told the Orlando Sentinel. “The school board never authorized such a defense.”
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