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Lawsuit filed against Dallas County Schools

A lawsuit seeking $45 million in damages has been filed against officials in the Dallas County School System.

On Dec. 3 attorney George E. Jones III filed the lawsuit on the behalf of Barbara J. Barge, Kathryn M. Crosby, Henrietta Jones and a minor in the school system.

Barge and Crosby are teachers at Southside High School. Henrietta Jones is a counselor at the school.

George Jones said that at some time between August and early December the minor involved in the lawsuit, a male, alleged he was touched in a sexual manner by vice principal John Harris.

The most serious allegation, though, according to Jones, is that Superintendent Wayne May and Assistant Superintendents Don Willingham and Freeman Waller had knowledge of accusations concerning alleged prior misconduct on on Harris’ part.

John Pilcher, the attorney representing the Dallas County Board of Education, however, said that this suit is the first time those claims have been heard.

Jones said that the minor alleged the incident occurred after he had been called into Harris’ office. He also said that the minor was told not to tell about the incident

Jones said that Harris believed Barge, Crosby and Henrietta Jones knew about the incident and intimated both the minor, teachers and counselor by suspending the student numerous times and altering the teachers’ work schedules. Also, Jones said, other school employees were encouraged to act disrespectful to his clients.

Jones, however, could not comment on why the teachers knew about the incident.

Jones alledges that Harris had been harassing his clients before the minor made his allegations, because they knew that records in the school were being tampered with. He added that they were harassed as early as August 2001.

The records concern pupil attendance and immunization.

Jones said that his clients still work and attend Southside High School. He added that the teachers and counselor are seeking protection under Alabama’s &uot;whistle blower&uot; statute. This statute prohibits his clients from being fired, demoted or moved to a different school.

Jones said the court hasn’t yet determined on providing such protection for his clients at this point.

The defendants, which include Harris, May, Willingham, Waller, Gary Crum, principal of Southside High School and Ollis Grayson, a member of the Dallas County Board of Education, have 30 days to file a written response.

Pilcher said that the complaint had just been received, and that it would be reviewed and the claims investigated. Pilcher said that he didn’t have a clear answer to the complaint yet because he hadn’t had time to review it.

Jones added that it could be a number of months to a year before the case goes to trial.

Currently, Jones said, depositions are being taken of the defendants and of those school employees that might have witnessed the alleged misconduct or had knowledge of it.