Two additional lawsuits filed in Hildebran pornography case

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Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013 5:57 pm

MORGANTON – Two additional families have come forward and filed lawsuits against Hildebran Elementary School officials, the school district and Michael Alexander, the former third-grade teacher convicted of sexually exploiting underage students last year.

The lawsuits, filed in the U.S. District Court in Asheville on Monday, come just three months after the family of a 9-year-old girl filed a similar lawsuit alleging administrative officials with Burke County Public Schools had been told about Alexander’s illicit behavior and did nothing to stop him.

All three lawsuits name school guidance counselor Linda Bradshaw, former principal Wendi Barber, Burke County Public Schools Board of Education and Alexander as defendants accused of violating the U.S. and North Carolina Constitution, as well as multiple other federal and state laws.

According to the suits filed Monday, school officials had not only been informed once, but multiple times, of Alexander’s illegal activities with children.

One suit alleges a male student, identified only as N.C., was isolated from the rest of his classmates by Alexander and forced to watch images of women and animals engaged in various acts of bestiality.

According to the suit, “N.C. was so disturbed by the images Defendant Alexander showed him that he went home from school crying and told his father.”

N.C.’s father reportedly went to Hildebran Elementary School the following day and told officials there that his son had been exploited by Alexander, but school Barber told him nothing could be done.

“Defendant Barber’s deliberate indifference to N.C.’s abuse, reported to her by (his father), violated several explicit provisions of BCPS’s Policy Manual requiring her to protect N.C. by, at a minimum, reporting the allegations to the superintendent and police authorities,” the suit reads.

In the second suit, a female student identified as L.B. is alleged to have been 8-years old when Alexander began to single her out, sexually abusing her and filming her on school grounds.

L.B. reportedly made several overtures to contact Hildebran officials, telling school Bradshaw that several of the other girls in her class had begun to tease and bully her because of Alexander’s obvious favoritism.

“Around the same time that L.B. went to Defendant Bradshaw with her complaints of being bullied,” the suit reads, “another of Defendant Alexander’s victims, L.B.’s classmate, complained to Defendant Bradshaw that she was being inappropriately touched by Defendant Alexander.”

The lawsuit alleges that Bradshaw did nothing to investigate or report the child’s complaint. Her silence, if factual, violated no less than six explicit provisions of the school district’s manual requiring her to protect the students in her charge.

Today, Bradshaw continues to provide counseling at Hildebran Elementary School. Barber is now principal at Table Rock Middle School.

Attempts were made to contact both Barber and Bradshaw on Monday with no response.

School Superintendent Larry Putnam said that the school district had not been formally notified of the lawsuit, but school officials would be in contact with attorneys in the coming days to address the pressing matter.

“We have not seen the pres release or the lawsuit at this time. In fact, this is the first I’ve heard of it,” Putnam said Monday evening.

Putnam took the opportunity to defend Burke County guidance counselors and school officials against allegations pushed forward by the current lawsuits.

“Our counselors are professional counselors and they are there to help students,” Putnam said. “If there is an incident where a student is being bullied, counselors are there to address those issues.”

Back in the summer of 2012, Putnam and Hildebran school heads say they were entirely caught off guard when they received allegations that Alexander had been involved in an international child pornography ring.

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.

His illicit activities became public after EUROPOL investigators in Spain intercepted multiple pieces of child pornography depicting young girls from Hildebran, N.C.

Throughout his 12-year tenure, Alexander was found guilty of excusing young girls from school activities and engaging in illegal sex acts with the underage victims, often inside the school during school hours.

Alexander was sentenced to nearly 50 years in prison in July.

All three lawsuits against Alexander and the school district are being prosecuted by attorneys Douglas Fierberg and Peter Grenier of Washington, D.C.

“These lawsuits not only seek compensation, but also send 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,” Fierberg is quoted saying in a press release issued Monday. “The deliberate indifference to these children cannot ever be tolerated or repeated by teachers and officials responsible for our children.”