May 13, 1995 in Washington Voices

Parents Say Daughter Was Sexually Harassed By Junior High Teacher

Carla K. Johnson Staff writer
 

The parents of a former Greenacres Junior High student filed suit this week against the Central Valley School District and a former physical education teacher at the school.

The parents say the teacher, Tony Benson, sexually harassed their daughter, then 13, during a gym class last May. The school district fired Benson last summer over the same complaint.

The parents say Benson made a sexual comment and gesture that was witnessed by several other students.

The incident occurred after the teacher told some students they were acting like babies and needed a pacifier, according to the girl’s mother. Her daughter then asked where her pacifier was.

“He grabbed her head and put it toward his waist and said, ‘Suck on this,”’ the mother said.

Benson denied the charge through his attorney, Carl Oreskovich.

“My client believes these allegations are false. At no time did he sexually harass anyone,” Oreskovich said.

Paul Clay, an attorney for Central Valley School District, said he has not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

The suit seeks unspecified damages. In an administrative claim filed earlier, the parents had asked for $500,000, said their attorney, Russell Van Camp.

“Teachers rightfully accept responsibility for guiding our children,” Van Camp said. “This unfortunate incident has devastated my client.”

The school district fired Benson after investigating complaints against him. Benson at first appealed the firing, but settled with the district in January before a hearing was held.

In the settlement, the district paid Benson $30,000 and the teacher agreed not to apply for reinstatement and to stay off school grounds during class hours.

The state superintendent’s office is investigating the Benson complaint, which could result in revocation of his teaching certificate.

xxxx Names omitted The names of the parents and their daughter are omitted in this report because of the girl’s age.

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