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Lawsuit Claims Triad Knew About Abuse, Did Not Act

By Charlie Feldman

While the original suit against a Triad Middle School teacher accused of abusing a male student from eighth grade through his junior year in high school still waits for its day in court, the student has now filed a lawsuit against the district claiming that it knew all about the abuse and did nothing to stop it.

The district denies the allegations.

The original lawsuit alleges that Garwood, charged with indecent solicitation of a child, a Class 2 felony, and grooming, a Class 4 felony, told the male student over Snapchat that she wanted to have sexual intercourse with him, according to information from Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons in 2019. The abuse allegedly occurred between August 1, 2016 and October 31, 2018. She sent him a picture of herself naked in the bath, it says and later gave him hugs in the high school hallway, leading to other students allegedly bullying and harassing him.

The student, now 19, alleges in his new lawsuit that school officials knew about it and failed to stop it.

Superintendent of Schools Leigh Lewis has issued the following statement: “The Board of Education recently became aware of a lawsuit filed by a former student against the District, Triad High School Principal Rodney Winslow and former Triad Middle School teacher Erin Garwood in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.

“While we cannot comment any further on pending litigation, we deny the allegations against the District and Principal Winslow. The District looks forward to vigorously defending the claim.

“In addition, we want to assure our students, parents, and the Triad community that the safety and well-being of our students is, and always has been, our top priority. We have policies and practices in place to ensure that students are protected while in our care, and we remain committed to providing a safe and positive learning environment.”

Garwood was put on paid leave in May 2019 after teachers informed Lewis about the allegations. The superintendent called the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and turned it over to them. Charges were filed a little over six months later. Garwood turned herself in and posted bail on the same day. She is no longer with the district.

Lewis said the district has not been informed about the progress of the original court case.

The jury trial in that suit, originally set for January 4, 2020, has been postponed nine times, largely due to COVID-19-related reasons. The latest court date, February 22, has been rescheduled to a later undetermined date, according to a courthouse source.

An attempt to reach the victim’s attorney, Judy Steele, was unsuccessful.

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