Sexual abuse victim sues Cahokia School District, teacher's aide

News-DemocratSeptember 4, 2013 

A sexual assault victim has filed a federal lawsuit against Cahokia School District 187 and teacher's aide Mario L. Hunt, who allegedly molested male high school students.

Hunt was charged in May with aggravated criminal sexual abuse, criminal sexual assault and sexual transmission of HIV, all felonies. The 35-year-old Cahokia man is accused of molesting boys at Cahokia High School.

When the allegations surfaced, Hunt was suspended from his teacher's aide position and the district launched its own investigation, according to Cahokia School District Superintendent Art Ryan. Hunt has since resigned from his position, which he held for six or seven years, Ryan said.

"We never once had a parent or student come to us or complain of any sexual contact," Ryan said. "As of this day, we still haven't had a parent or a student make an allegation of sexual improprieties. We are just aware of what happened with the police."

The district has not yet responded to the lawsuit, which was filed Aug. 29.

The victim, who filed the suit, is only identified as John Doe in court documents to protect his identity. He is a resident of St. Clair County, was born in 1994 and attended Cahokia High School from 2010 to 2013, according to the 34-page complaint.

The unidentified teen was allegedly sexually abused by Hunt while on school property from 2012 to 2013 during normal school hours and extracurricular activities. Hunt also assisted with the track team.

"The sexual abuse occurred ... in areas of the school that Hunt has access to by virtue of his employment, including instances of sexual touching, masturbation and oral sex during school hours," court documents state.

The victim is represented by Jarrod P. Beasley, an attorney with The Kuehn Law Firm in Belleville. Beasley could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit alleges employees and school board members at Cahokia School District were aware of allegations and complaints concerning sexual misconduct of Hunt and attempted to conceal the abuse.

"I have no idea what they would even be referring to," Ryan said.

The lawsuit names Tanya Mitchell as a respondent. Mitchell is the district's director of curriculum and instruction and certified personnel. She could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit alleges Mitchell "knew or reasonably should have known that Hunt suffered from a pedophilic mental disorder ... and that Hunt was a danger to male students including Doe."

Ryan explained Mitchell previously served as assistant curriculum director. "She didn't do the investigation until this year started," he said. "That she somehow knew about it. It's absurd."

As a result of Hunt's sexual abuse, Doe suffers from physical, mental and emotional distress including sleep disturbance, fear and anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

The victim is seeking an unspecified amount to cover court costs, attorney fees and "any other relief deemed necessary" by the court, the complaint states.

The criminal charges against Hunt are pending. A status conference is scheduled for Oct. 14 at St. Clair County Courthouse. Hunt was arrested on May 13 and posted $15,000 bond.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.