CHARLESTON - A former Nitro High School student is suing a former teacher and the Kanawha County Board of Education, claiming the two are responsible for sexual abuse that happened nearly a year ago.
Megan McKown of Cross Lanes says former assistant football coach and freshman basketball coach Robert Fulmer sexually abused and harassed her on March 18, 2005, in his classroom.
"Against Megan's will, and without her consent, Defendant Fulmer forcibly grabbed Megan McKown, kissed her stomach, pulled down her bra and fondled and kissed her chest," a complaint filed March 15 in Kanawha Circuit Court says. She is represented by Beckley attorney Stephen P. New.
When McKown, an honor roll student since graduated, first made the accusations last year, Fulmer, a ninth-grade American History teacher, was suspended with pay for a few months before being fired in July.
McKown had been working as Fulmer's teaching assistant when an announcement called students to the Nitro cafeteria to make their schedules for the following year.
McKown says she stayed behind, and Fulmer made sure the door was locked before leading her to a corner of the room that couldn't be seen through the window on the classroom door.
"Defendant Fulmer asked her to touch him below the waist and demanded that she remove her pants," the complaint says. "Defendant Fulmer also requested Megan McKown perform oral sex favors on him."
She says Fulmer only relented when another student returned to the room and discovered the two locked inside.
Prior to that incident, McKown says Fulmer made inappropriate comments about her appearance, prom and graduation.
"(Fulmer) had remarked to Megan McKown and another female student that 'your butt looks good in those jeans,' and engaged in inappropriate conversations with the plaintiff regarding her boyfriend, prom and graduation plans. Defendant Fulmer told Plaintiff McKown he intended to rent a hotel for graduation, with a wet bar, and buy her lingerie," the complaint says.
McKown is suing the Kanawha County Board of Education because, she says, it had information that Fulmer was a sexual predator and was engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct with school children, yet failed to respond.
"A lot of times with sexual harassment, it's easy to cut and paste a policy, put it in a three-ring binder and say, 'We have a policy,'" New said. "It's much more difficult to get out there where there's interaction with co-workers and students and find out real problems."
McKown charges the defendants with sexual abuse/sexual harassment; respondeat superior/negligent hiring and retention; assault and battery; punitive damages; breach of fiduciary duty; and damages.
"I don't think anyone goes out to check whether or not schools are educating their teachers," New said. "I don't think there's any type of enforcement. I don't know how involved Kanawha County is in researching backgrounds, but I think Kanawha County needs to be a lot more proactive on a lot of levels."
Judge Irene Berger has been assigned the case.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-483