Triad seeks to dismiss former student’s sexual harassment lawsuit
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Case is set for trial May 22 in East St. Louis
By Pat Pratt
Triad School District is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by a former high-school student who was sexually harassed by a former teacher. The teacher, Erin Garwood, has also been dismissed from the litigation, recent court filings show.
The case of John Doe 10 v. Board of Education of Triad Community Unit School District 2 is set for trial May 22 in the East St. Louis Courthouse before Judge Stephen P. McGlynn. A motion for summary judgment filed by the district in February requesting dismissal with prejudice is currently pending.
In the motion, the district said the abuse by former teacher Erin Garwod was unknown until Doe came forward to school personnel. Once he did, officials opened criminal and internal investigations and did everything possible to hold Garwood accountable.
“Here, the uncontested facts show that Triad never had any knowledge of harassment committed by Garwood until it received a complaint about Garwood’s conduct toward male students at the end of the school day on May 14, 2019,” attorneys for the district wrote in the motion. “The District immediately addressed the complaint, and there is no evidence suggesting that harassment continued after this date.”
The district’s motion was filed in February and comes following completion of discovery in the case in January. In the motion, the district claims the discovery process now complete shows Doe’s case is without merit.
“However, discovery now complete, Plaintiff cannot meet the high threshold under Title IX that requires proof that the District had actual notice of the harassment of Garwood and remained deliberately indifferent to it,” the motion reads.
In a response filed in March to the district’s motion, Doe alleges the district for years failed to act despite Garwood having a reputation for acting inappropriately with students. He alleges school policy created a culture of indifference to sexual harassment, which emboldened Garwood.
“Triad had actual notice of prior sexual harassment by Garwood, which led to Garwood’s sexual harassment of Plaintiff. After learning about Garwood’s behavior, Triad was deliberately indifferent to subjecting Plaintiff to a hostile environment, including sexual harassment by peers,” the response reads. “Triad failed to make an accommodation to allow Plaintiff to continue his education.”
Garwood has been voluntarily dismissed from the lawsuit by the plaintiff following mediation, according to recent court filings in the case. Those documents show only that the case was settled in respect to Garwood and not settled regarding the district.
Following her dismissal from the lawsuit, Doe filed an amended complaint. Court docket entries show the amended complaint omits the claims against Garwoord, but those against the district remain the same.
Garwood in June of 2021 pleaded guilty to harassment through electronic communication. She was sentenced to 12 months of probation, ordered to pay $2,000 to the Madison County Child Advocacy Center as restitution, and undergo sex-offender evaluation and treatment. She was originally charged with indecent solicitation of a child, a Class 2 felony, and grooming, a Class 4 felony. However, in August 2021 prosecutors decided to no longer pursue those charges.
The criminal case against Garwood began in May 2019, when an administrator heard rumors about her having relations with underage male students, according to a statement of facts listed in the civil complaint. The administrator reported the rumor to the school resource officer, who subsequently questioned Doe.
Doe originally denied the allegations, according to a statement of facts listed in the complaint. He claims to have denied the allegation because he did not know he was underage and unable to consent. He also was allegedly in fear he was in trouble with the school.
Later, Doe would complete an interview with forensic psychologists and admitted Garwood sent him inappropriate Snapchat messages and photographs, court documents show. Doe claims the harassment began when he was in eighth grade. At that time, Garwood was a science teacher at Triad Middle School.
Garwood resigned following the investigation. The Illinois State Board of Education in April of 2020 revoked her educator license.