When Stacy Lewis received a call from the Department of Child Services about an investigation regarding her daughter’s abuse at the hands of a teacher, she knew something was terribly wrong. After she got the whole story from her daughter and authorities, she learned that, not only had her daughter’s school failed to tell her about the reported abuse, they failed to act on the initial report of suspicious behavior, leaving her daughter in danger for more than 2 months.
The North West Hendricks County School Corporation in North Salem received several tips about the alleged abuse of one teenage girl, Stacy and Mark Lewis’s daughter. Despite these concerns, the school failed to take action against the coach and did not report the allegations to the girl’s parents. Her parents, instead, learned of the accusations when they received a call two months later from the Department of Child Services, who is currently investigating the situation alongside local authorities.
In an effort to hold the district responsible for their negligence, Stacy and Mark Lewis filed a tort claim with the help of Attorney Jeff Gibson of Wagner Reese. The claim, which was filed on August 6, holds the school corporation responsible for failing to keep their daughter, now 17-years-old, safe at Tri-West High School.
A Teacher Takes Advantage
The trouble began when coach and teacher Tyler Bruce requested the teenage girl as his aide for the 2018-19 school year. According to the claim, Bruce asked her to exercise with him in the weight room at the high school and asked her to join the track team, where he would serve as her coach.
Not long after, Bruce initiated inappropriate Snapchat conversations with the teenager girl late at night, and threatened to say she cheated on a test if she stopped sending him pictures. The claim also accuses Bruce of touching the teenager inappropriately underneath her clothing more than once. Stacy claims that Bruce said, “’I’m the head football coach, and no one is ever going to believe you,’” which encouraged her daughter to stay quiet about the abuse. “He used intimidation, threats, academics. He pushed far beyond the line,” said Stacy Lewis.
The School District Fails To Act
The school received an anonymous call in March of 2019, stating that the football coach was exercising alone with the teenager, but no action was taken. Two months later, in May of that year, a school resource officer reported an inappropriate interaction between Bruce and the teenage girl.
After this report, the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office and the North West Hendricks County School Corporation finally began investigating the issue.
When Call 6 Investigates of RTV6 Indianapolis asked Attorney Gibson why they filed a claim, he responded: “Tyler Bruce is the symptom of a bigger problem in The North West Hendricks County School Corporation.” He continued, “When a complaint comes in with a teacher being along with a student, that the school has an obligation to step in at that point in time. Had they done that, we wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
The Claim Against North West Hendricks County School Corporation
The claim alleges that the school district failed to monitor Bruce properly, and the failed to take action in March when they received the first complaint of his inappropriate behavior. Because of the school’s inaction, Stacy’s daughter suffered emotional distress and trauma at the hands of her teacher.
The district’s actions failed to protect the children at Tri-West High School, and they continue to make poor decisions regarding the abuse investigation. Since Bruce’s accusations have surfaced, the coach has been put on paid leave, along with the Athletic Director and the Dean of Students. The principal of the high school also resigned a month after Bruce’s investigation began.
Stacy Lewis explains that her main objective is to see that the school protects its students and responds correctly to serious allegations of abuse and misconduct. “It could have been stopped months ago, and it wasn’t” she explained.
To learn more about this story, and to hear Attorney Jeff Gibson’s interview, visit RTV6 Indianapolis online.
If you are in a similar situation and your child was abused because of another party’s negligence, our firm is prepared to help. Contact Wagner Reese today.