CHARLESTON – Five lawsuits have been filed against the West Virginia Board of Education after five teachers allege they were sexually abused and harassed by a school principal.
Nicholas County Board of Education; and county board employees Timothy Bennett, Beverly Kingrey and Sarah Singleton also were named as defendants in the suits.
The five Jane Does were veteran teachers at Cherry River Elementary School during the 2014-15 school year and Bennett was their direct supervisor and the principal, according to five complaints filed in Kanawha Circuit Court.
The five women claim in April 2015, they were subjected to certain sexual advances, sexual assaults, inappropriate behavior and inappropriate statements by Bennett.
Prior to the 2014-15 school year, the county and state boards of education were made aware of a decrease in employment satisfaction by the teachers at the elementary school and neither did anything to fix the situation, according to the suits.
The five women claim during the school year, the defendants became aware of the bizarre, sexually harassing and sexually assaulting behavior of Bennett and, despite being made aware, they did nothing.
In April 2015, Bennett’s conduct enhanced and became unbearable and he constantly was grabbing the plaintiffs’ breasts, backsides, kissing them, hugging them and created a hostile work environment, according to the suits.
The plaintiffs and their husbands suffered problems with intimacy and companionship as a result of Bennett’s illegal sexual acts.
The plaintiffs claim they began to openly discuss the illegal sexual conduct being inflicted upon themselves with other employees and discovered they were not the only persons suffered from illegal touching, fondling, threats of adverse employment consequences and general outrageous conduct.
As early as 2012, the defendants were aware of the decreased employment satisfaction at Cherry River and the propensity of Bennett to engage in illegal sexual activity toward other employees, according to the suits.
The plaintiffs claim they after reporting the illegal sexual behavior, they began receiving threatening and harassing phone calls from Singleton and Kingrey.
The women suffered severe psychological trauma as a result of the defendants’ conduct, according to the suits.
Bennett was indicted for his illegal sexual activity and faced a trial for 34 separate accounts of sexual abuse and his trial resulted in a hung jury, according to the suit. The plaintiffs were assured by the Nicholas County prosecutor that Bennett would face another trial for his illegal sexual conduct.
Instead, the prosecutor entered into a plea agreement wherein Bennett pled guilty to one misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace and was subjected to a $100 fine.
The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. They are being represented by Travis A. Griffith of Griffith Law Center.
Griffith said the plaintiffs did not want to be involved in civil litigation regarding the issues until they did not receive justice in the criminal justice system.
“They wanted to feel like they got some retribution,” Griffith said. “The criminal justice system completely failed them and they have had no alternative than to file these lawsuits. They are trying to demonstrate that this type of conduct is unacceptable.”
Griffith said Bennett was allowed to retire from the school system with his pension.
Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers: 17-C-44, 17-C-45, 17-C-46, 17-C-47, 17-C-48