The family of a teenager who committed suicide after becoming victimized by a teacher characterized as a “known sexual predator” has sued a school district for allegedly concealing the behavior of the married teacher who had sex with minor students.
The Reno Gazette Journal reports that Tennille Whitaker, 41, is serving a maximum of 20 years in jail after pleading no contest last year to four counts of sexual conduct with a pupil. Whitaker, reportedly married with two children, was an elementary school teacher at Wells Combined School in the Elk County school district in Nevada for 11 years, and is believed to have sexual relationships with four high school students who served as teacher’s aides in her classroom.
One of the victims, Corbin Madison, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in August in Reno, Nevada, where he had recently moved following his graduation from high school. Madison, whose father is representing his estate, and another former student, Brennen Hooper, are named as co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit obtained by the Elko Daily Free Press.
The lawsuit reportedly claims that Madison’s suicide was “due to his resultant depression, humiliation and embarrassment” related to the abuse. According to the documents, Madison became a teacher’s aide for Whitaker in 2016 and initially rejected her advances, resulting in Whitaker threatening to mark him absent from his position. The student became “emotionally distraught, humiliated and embarrassed,” the lawsuit states.
Elko County School District and Chris McAnany, who was principal of the Wells Combined School at the time of the allegations, are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which claims that they “suppressed, concealed or failed to disclose” evidence that Whitaker had been abusing or harassing students. According to Elko Daily Free Press report, the plaintiffs say that McAnany was informed on six occasions between 2016 and 2017 that Whitaker was having unlawful sexual relationships with underage students.
Despite reported complaints from concerned parents and a janitor who reportedly witnessed inappropriate behavior between the teacher and a student, Whitaker continued to teach in a classroom area that offered a “secluded environment,” the lawsuit reportedly states.
The court documents further state that Hooper was removed from Whitaker’s classroom after a staff member saw him sitting on her lap, but that his parents were never notified of the incident or given an explanation for why he was removed.
The lawsuit is asking for $45,000 in damages to be awarded to each plaintiff’s estate, and possibly more for additional damages including funeral costs, accusing the school administrators of a failure to “address, prevent and/or remove known sexual predators from its ranks.”
[Feature image: Corbin Madion/Reno Police Department]