A former middle school student filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the East St. Louis School District on Tuesday, saying that he faced “a hostile educational environment” after he revealed that he had a sexual relationship with a teacher in October 2014.
In the lawsuit, the student claims the school district violated his Title IX and Fourteenth Amendment rights. It seeks compensatory damages for the student’s psychological and emotional distress and damages and punitive damages among other things. Since the boy was a minor at the time of the alleged offenses, he is not named. Named as defendants in the suit are East St. Louis School District No. 189, Superintendent Arthur Culver and two Lincoln Middle School officials, principal Eric Harris and assistant principal Brittany Green. The teacher involved in the case, Shondarnisha Hicks, was not listed as a defendant.
The lawsuit alleges Hicks drove the boy to a location in St. Louis and engaged in sexual intercourse and other sexual acts with him on Oct. 13, 2014. Hicks and the boy had been communicating electronically via text messages and email prior to the alleged sexual acts. The suit says the school district had investigated the communication between Hicks and the boy prior to Oct. 13, 2014. The boy’s mother was not notified that school officials had questioned her son about his relationship with Hicks, the suit claims.
The boy was placed on homebound instruction about two weeks after the alleged sexual intercourse occurred, after it had become public knowledge. The lawsuit says the school district did not provide the boy with adequate materials and resources for his home schooling. The school district allegedly did not honor the grades the boy received from his home school instructor. The suit claims the boy was a gifted student prior to the alleged incident with the teacher and needed counseling after he started his home schooling.
The boy eventually returned to school in February 2015 and was punished several times, which the family believes were acts of harassment for him disclosing the alleged affair with Hicks. The suit claims at least one school district employee committed acts of harassment against the boy. In the spring of 2015, one teacher allegedly told the boy that he shouldn’t have returned to school.
No criminal charges were ever brought against Hicks. Attempts to reach East St. Louis school officials were unsuccessful Wednesday night.