A Florida school district has been accused of blaming four third-grade girls for being molested by their teacher in 2005.
The Sun Sentinel reported that the Palm Beach County School District has recently agreed to pay the four victims, who are now adults, $3.6 million to settle the lawsuit. The girls had accused Coral Sunset Elementary teacher Blake Sinrod of molesting them in the classroom. Sinrod, now 46, pleaded guilty in May 2006 to child abuse charges involving two of his victims.
Police got involved after one of the girls told her mother that Sinrod had touched her during a reading group. She claimed he touched her under her clothing and instructed him to touch his private area over his clothing, documents obtained by the paper revealed.
The three other girls, who were about 9 at the time, recounted similar stories to police.
In their response to the lawsuit, the Palm Beach School District maintained that the victims were “old enough to appreciate the consequences of their actions” when they complied with Sinrod’s instructions. Ultimately, the district concluded that the girls “conducted themselves in a careless and negligent manner.”
The district allegedly disregarded similar complaints made against the teacher in 2003. The recent lawsuit alleged that the assistant principal told a second grader’s parents that Sinrod was a “highly recommended teacher” and that their daughter must be lying.
The school district still contends this point, arguing that a complaint made to the assistant principal doesn’t reach the level of negligence on the district’s part, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Court records indicate that adjudication was halted after Sinrod met the terms of his probation. The New York Daily News reported that the district fired him in 2006 and his license was revoked in 2008.
The civil case was in appeals for several years and made its way to the Florida Supreme Court before all parties reached an agreement.
“The young women and their families are pleased with the result, relieved the case is finally coming to an end,” attorney Marc Wites told The Post.
On Wednesday, the Palm Beach County School District released a statement which explained their controversial legal tactics.
“The Board, with its attorneys, must consider all legal defenses on a case by case basis, however, this current School Board has never taken the position that a child could be implicit in their own child abuse,” they said.
[Featured Image: Police Handout]