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Lawsuit alleges sex abuse by teacher, negligence by Fenton High School in Chicago suburbs

Woman sues, saying she was sexually abused at Fenton High School in Chicago suburbs
Woman sues, saying she was sexually abused at Fenton High School in Chicago suburbs 00:31

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A woman is suing Fenton Community High School District 100 in Bensenville, alleging that she was sexually abused by a former teacher while she was a student.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, claims the woman – identified in the suit as "Survivor A" – was repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted by the teacher and track coach at the school in 2015 and 2016. The student joined the track during her freshman year, the lawsuit alleged.

The suit said the teacher sexually assaulted Survivor A on school grounds – including in his office – and alleged that other teachers and staffers at Fenton High School knew Survivor A was in the teacher's office with the door closed and the blinds down when the teacher was "grooming and committing criminal sexual assault" against her.

The teacher was also accused in the lawsuit of sexually assaulting Survivor A in his own car and hers, and in a hotel room – and videotaping one of the incidents.

The teacher was reassigned from track and field coaching and classroom teaching to a position as a school librarian in December 2016 – and his school-issued cellphone was taken away, the lawsuit said. The suit claimed this reassignment reflected the knowledge of the teacher's "inappropriate and unlawful communication and conduct with students."

That same month, the lawsuit said Survivor A was summoned for an unscheduled meeting with then-school district Supt. James Ongtengco and a resource officer. The superintendent told her he had received a tip that she had been in an inappropriate relationship with the teacher and interrogated her about it.

"Fearful, intimidated, and alone, Survivor A denied any inappropriate relationship was occurring," the lawsuit said.

The suit also said Survivor A's parents were never notified of this meeting.

The lawsuit said the school district knew or should have known of what the teacher was doing – based both on her presence in his office with the door closed and blinds down, and the volume of text messages he sent her on a school-issued phone. The school district was required by law to report the teacher to law enforcement and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, but did not, the lawsuit said.

Instead, the teacher was allowed to abuse several other underage students over a period of years, attorneys alleged.

The lawsuit alleges Title IX violations; failure to intervene; violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment; failure to train, supervise, and discipline; negligence, willful and wanton misconduct; and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, among other counts.

It seeks unspecified damages.

"We are honored to file this lawsuit on behalf of our brave client who had the courage to come forward to hold the Fenton Community High School District 100 Board of Education accountable for what the Complaint describes as persistent, pervasive, and flagrant failures to protect her and other students from predatory behavior," attorney Patrick A. Thronson of Janet, Janet & Suggs LLC, which filed the lawsuit, said in a news release. "If there are other survivors who have suffered abuse or mistreatment from [the accused teacher] or any other person, we strongly encourage them to come forward to seek justice and healing and help protect current and future students from possible abuse."

It was in March when police documents on the former teacher were leaked on social media, laying out sexual abuse allegations involving students. The teacher was first on administrative leave after the document was leaked, and was later fired.

A timeline was later issued by Ongtengco, detailing all the tips they received involving the staffer – and how they were handled. The timeline revealed the accusations dated back to 2011 – during which time the teacher received a disciplinary letter for allegedly sending inappropriate text messages to a student in their class.

Bensenville Village President Frank DeSimone has issued a letter calling for the resignation of Supt. Ongtengco, and anyone who knew of the allegations and failed to take action.

On March 29, Ongtengco was placed on administrative leave. Fenton High School Principal Samuel Bentsen was placed in the role on an interim basis.

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