By Pat Pratt
A jury trial is set for April in a civil case brought by a former Triad student who accuses the district of failing to take action as he faced sexual harassment by a teacher.
Judge Stephen P. McGlynn will preside in the case of John Doe V. Triad Community Unit School District No. 2 and former teacher Erin Garwood on April 11 at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois courthouse in East St. Louis, according to an Oct. 24 scheduling order.
In December 2019, Garwood was charged criminally in the case with felony counts of solicitation of a child and grooming. She pleaded guilty in June 2021 to harassment through electronic communication, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to one year probation.
Doe’s attorneys filed the case in January of 2021, which alleges the district knew about the harassment and did not stop it. The district claims it acted on the abuse as soon as it was made aware, according to past reporting.
The harassment continued from Doe’s eighth grade year, when Garwood was his science teacher, until his junior year, according to a complaint filed in the case. As a result of the harassment by Garwood, rumors were spread about Doe and he was subjected to further ridicule by his classmates.
“The school personnel never intervened or told these students that what they were discussing was abuse and that their statements constituted sexual harassment,” the complaint states.
Around May 2019, an administrator at the school heard the rumors and reported to the school resource officer. After interviewing Doe, the resource officer contacted the Illinois Department of Children’s Services and soon after a criminal investigation was launched.
According to the civil complaint, Garwood had years before been the subject of inappropriate behavior toward male students.
The complaint reads in April 2015 school administrators notified Garwood “the parameters she set with students were inappropriate.” The administrator who hotlined Doe’s abuse reported to the state there were prior allegations against Garwood of having inappropriate relationships with male students.
Both middle and high school principals found her to be “extremely friendly with male students,” the complaint reads. District administrators discussed her inappropriate behavior with her on multiple occasions.
“When a district such as defendant district here has actual notice of a teacher committing sexual harassment toward male students and repeatedly takes the same or similar actions toward that teacher when those actions repeatedly fail to stop the behavior, the district’s response is clearly unreasonable and constitutes deliberate indifference,” the complaint reads. “That is what happened here.”