A 2008 Shelby County High School graduate is suing a former teacher and the staff of three Kentucky school districts, charging they were complicit in sexual harassment and wanton negligence.
In a lawsuit filed Nov. 6 in Shelby County Circuit Court, Elizabeth Reynolds, 18, has charged former teacher Scott Stumbo with “intentional and outrageous” conduct that has caused her to suffer “severe emotional distress.”
This civil suit comes 10 months after Stumbo submitted an Alford plea to criminal charges of sexual harassment of a student.
Stumbo, a former industrial arts teacher at SCHS, was arrested and brought to trial earlier this year on two counts of harassment and one count of distributing obscene material to a minor.
Under the terms of an Alford plea, Stumbo did not admit guilt to the charges but acknowledged that there was enough evidence to find him guilty if the case went to trial.
That case, which involved Reynolds and another local student, accused Stumbo of having conversations with the students “of a highly inappropriate and sexual nature” and distributing obscene material to Reynolds.
According to the complaint, Stumbo was charged with giving Reynolds a document that “was highly sexual in nature and contained graphic details of imagined sexual escapades” among Reynolds, Stumbo and his wife.
In January, Stumbo entered an Alford plea to the Shelby County District Court on those charges and was sentenced to 180 days probated for 24 months - which means if he were convicted of any other crimes in the next two years, he would serve 180 days in jail. With the criminal charges settled, Stumbo now will have to face a civil suit.
In an interview with the Sentinel News on Tuesday, Stumbo, who lives in Simpsonville, maintained that he is innocent of the charges and said that he did not go forward with the criminal trial because of physical fatigue caused by his leukemia.
He would not comment on the civil case because he has not yet retained the services of a lawyer or been served with the lawsuit.
Along with Stumbo, 23 other plaintiffs are named in the case, including eight people from the Shelby County School System.
The Shelby County School Board’s legal representation, Robert Chenoweth of Frankfort, did not immediately return phone calls concerning the lawsuit. Current school board members Brenda Jackson, Sam Hinkle, Eddie Mathis, Allen Phillips, former board member Paul Goodlett, two former superintendents, Elaine Farris and Susan Cook, and former SCHS Principal Gary Kidwell were named as being partially responsible in the case.
In the lawsuit, Erin Ratliff, Reynolds’ lawyer, states that these defendants “knew or should have known that Stumbo was causing or would cause harm to students.”
Ratliff said Stumbo had sexual relationship with a student in Trimble County that resulted in a child and also had a sexual relationship with a student in Henry County. Board members and district personnel of Henry and Trimble County School were also named in the case.
In the lawsuit, personnel from Henry and Trimble Counties are cited for “failing to disclose...the potential criminal actions” of Stumbo.
Ratliff said though Stumbo is the one ultimately responsible for the abuse, he was allowed to harass Reynolds because of the inaction the three school districts.
She said the local school board should have known about Stumbo’s proclivity towards inappropriate relationships with students.
“They have to take reports, even rumors, of sexual relations between a teacher and a student very seriously,” she said. “The way they handled this is not acceptable.”
She said Stumbo’s actions were “disgusting” and “perverted” and that she is hoping for a jury trial in which her plaintiff receives “as much compensation as the 12 members of the jury deem appropriate.”
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