Former Braxton High teacher hit with civil lawsuit

By John O'Brien | Mar 14, 2006

CHARLESTON - In December, former middle school teacher Toni Woods pleaded guilty to charges of having sex with three juveniles.

In a lawsuit filed March 8 in Kanawha Circuit Court, Woods, as well as the Braxton County Board of Education, the West Virginia Board of Education and Board employees Carolyn Long and Victor Lambert were hit with a civil suit by Mike Cowger, the legal guardian of one of the boys Woods pleaded guilty to molesting.

Woods, of Strange Creek, was accused of having sexual intercourse with three separate students a total of four times and oral sex with one of them a total of four times in the original criminal complaint.

She pleaded guilty to four counts of felony third-degree sexual assault and one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Woods, 37, has not been sentenced yet.

Cowger, who is acting on behalf of a juvenile only identified as C.K., states in his complaint: "Defendants Braxton Board, State Board, Lambert and/or Long negligently hired Defendant Woods, proximately causing and/or contributing to damages suffered by C.K.

"Defendant Woods' predatory conduct could have been prevented had the Defendants… had a policy in place prohibiting teachers from taking students to their home."

Cowger alleges that, after gaining the trust of students and parents, Woods began inviting boys back to her home from approximately Jan. 1-Feb.26 in 2005. There, she illegally provided alcoholic beverages and encouraged the boys to drink them before molesting them.

After she was charged criminally last year, Woods resigned and turned in her teaching certificate, all but assuring she will never teach in West Virginia again. She will also have to register as a sex offender.

C.K. was a seventh-grader at Braxton Middle School during the 2004-05 school year, when Woods was teaching sixth grade.

"C.K. has suffered irreparable harm, including, but not limited to, embarrassment, humiliation, annoyance, confusion and shame," the complaint states.

Cowger is represented by Christopher J. Heavens of the Heavens Law Offices in Charleston and is seeking compensatory and punitive damages "that would adequately deter and punish the Defendants for failing to protect C.K . and future students from predatory employees of the State Board and Braxton Board."

Judge Charlie King has been assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-441

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