Lawsuit by former Bloom Trail High School student accuses teacher of sexual assault

A teacher at Bloom Trail High School in Chicago Heights is accused in a lawsuit of grooming then sexually assaulting a student who attended the school in the early 2000s.

The teacher has been placed on administrative leave while an investigation is underway, according to the school.

The lawsuit, filed May 9 in Cook County Circuit Court, identifies the victim as “Jane Doe” who is now 39. Along with the school, the lawsuit names the teacher and Bloom Township High School District 206 as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges the teacher befriended the girl when she was a 16-year-old sophomore, and states the relationship resulted in the male teacher “sexually assaulting and abusing” her repeatedly, including on school property.

The woman said staff and administrators at the school knew or should have known about “the inappropriate sexual relationship” and that the woman was a “victim of a known preventable hazard that school and district officials “created and allowed to continue,” the lawsuit states, alleging breach of duty by the district.

The woman suffers severe and permanent emotional distress, including psychological injuries and endured a failed marriage, according to the complaint.

Matthew Passen, an attorney for the woman, said in an email Friday his firm has been “contacted by several former students regarding this lawsuit and expressing concerns regarding this particular teacher.”

He said it is possible there will be other lawsuits against the teacher and school as a result.

In a message sent to Bloom Trail families Wednesday, Principal Glynis Keene said the district recently received notice of the lawsuit “involving the alleged inappropriate actions” of a staff member.

“We cannot discuss this complaint because it is a personnel and legal matter,” Keene wrote. “What we can share is that the safety of our students is our number one priority.”

The teacher has not been charged with a criminal offense and could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lawsuit alleges the grooming of the girl began during the first semester of her junior year, when she was introduced to the teacher by a friend who drove her to school each day.

The student was encouraged to use his classroom as her personal locker, storing her book bag and other items there, the lawsuit alleges. The two also kept in contact after school hours through instant messaging and email, and he would ask her about her friends, family, activities and interests, according to the lawsuit.

She began to trust him enough that she began to share intimate details about her family and friends as well as her daily activities and relationships, according to the complaint.

The student would go to his classroom during between classes to drop off or retrieve materials, and during those times the teacher “would intentionally brush his body” against her “or otherwise gratuitously touch her as she was walking in or out of the classroom,” the lawsuit alleges.

When the girl turned 17, she received a cellphone, and their communications shifted to text messages, with the teacher texting her on a daily basis, according to the complaint.

In January 2002, during the girl’s junior year, the teacher took his “grooming to the next level” and began having private soccer practices with her in the school’s gym after school, playing in an area curtained off from the rest of the gym, according to the lawsuit. During each session, he would “intentionally rub against” her and “gratuitously touch her buttock or waist,” according to the lawsuit.

Then, a few weeks later, they began going to his classroom at the end of the day, where he would turn off the lights, lock the door and kiss and touch her in an inappropriate way and encourage her to touch him, according to the lawsuit.

Later on in the relationship, they had sexual intercourse at his home, and thereafter such encounters took place on a daily basis, sometimes in his classroom, his parents’ home or in his car, according to the lawsuit.

He told the girl that she could not tell anyone about their encounters or he would “go to jail” and his “life would be over,” according to the lawsuit.

Along with allegations of negligence on the part of school and District 206, the lawsuit alleges sexual assault and battery on the part of the teacher as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress. It seeks damages in excess of $50,000.