The family of a 9-year-old girl reportedly exploited by former Hildebran Elementary school teacher Michael Alexander has filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging administrative officials with Burke County Public Schools had been told about Alexander’s illicit behavior and did nothing to stop him.
The 14-count lawsuit was filed at the U.S. District Court in Asheville on Monday by family members of the alleged victim. According to the suit, said victim, identified only as Jane Doe, has suffered immeasurable hardship not only as a result of Alexander’s misconduct, but also as a consequence of the school board’s disregard for her wellbeing.
“This lawsuit not only seeks compensation, but also sends a message to schools and adults entrusted with children’s safety that they will be held accountable if they refuse to protect children from such atrocities,” prosecuting attorney Doug Fierberg said in a press release.
Alexander pleaded guilty in July to six counts of sexually exploiting children after state, local and federal investigations discovered the former third-grade teacher had been molesting and videotaping female students on school grounds.
Alexander was sentenced to nearly 50 years in prison.
The lawsuit alleges Alexander used his role of authority on numerous occasions to excuse Jane Doe out of classes and other activities and “falsely imprison her in a room where he would abuse her and create child-abuse images, some of which would be distributed worldwide.”
According to the official complaint, Alexander had the victim wear dresses and high-heeled boots to school, where he would force her into “vile sex acts,” often engaging with or consuming Alexander’s bodily fluids.
As an effort to keep his misconduct a secret from authorities, Alexander threatened the child, telling her he would break into her home and kill her and her entire family if she ever revealed the truth the lawsuit states.
The young girl was apparently so frightened at one point that a guardian had to barricade doors and windows with furniture just to convince her she was safe at home.
The suit contends Jane Doe did approach school staff concerning Alexander’s misconduct. But when the child told guidance counselor Linda Bradshaw about the incidents, Bradshaw accused the young girl of lying and dismissed her back to Alexander’s class.
“Bradshaw’s deliberate indifference to Jane Doe violated no less than six explicit provisions of BCPS’s Manual requiring her to protect Jane Doe by, at a minimum, reporting her allegations to the principal, superintendent, and police authorities,” the official complaint reads.
Bradshaw said Monday that she was not aware of any lawsuit and had no idea that any allegations whatsoever had been leveled against her or the administration.
Denied help, the plantiffs say, Jane Doe and more than 50 other reported victims continued to be sexually exploited and filmed by their teacher without any help from school or county officials.
According to Fierberg, preliminary discovery in the case has revealed what he referred to as “several John Roes who either knew about the misconduct or should have known about the misconduct, but did nothing to protect the child victim involved.”
Dean Shatley, counsel for the Burke County Board of Education, responded that the school board is currently unaware if these John Roes are fully employed by or merely associated with Burke County.
“Whoever these John Roes are, they may very well be Burke County school employees,” Shatley said Monday. “At this point in time though, we’re going to investigate and respond appropriately at a later time.”
According to Shatley, the school board had yet to be formally served the lawsuit and would wait until the proper legal measures were taken before pursuing any investigation.
Alexander’s conviction came after Interpol contacted authorities in North Carolina regarding an online child pornography ring. Area authorities were contacted after video was found of young girls in Hildebrand T-shirts.