December 17, 2007

Student Sues School District

By Christine O'Donnell

South Washington County School District 833 has denied responsibility for the acts of one of its employees, who was convicted of sexually abusing a student earlier this year.

The student, now 18, has filed a civil suit against the school district and the man convicted of abusing her, Richard Parnell Rucker of Washington County, for sexual abuse during her three years at Lake Junior High School in Woodbury. She is asking $50,000 for physical injury and emotional distress.

The trial for this case is scheduled to begin in the Hennepin county court in July.

Rucker worked for the school, and three others in the district, as an integration specialist and counselor in the Project Alliance, an after-school diversity program. The victim’s guidance counselor recommended she attend the program. The woman was in ninth-grade at the time. It was during this program that she met Rucker.

Rucker was convicted last January for sexually assaulting the victim, according to the civil complaint.
The jury found him guilty for acts of sexual contact and intercourse that occurred in Rucker’s apartment, truck and in movie theaters for two years starting in the fall of 2003, according to the answer to the civil complaint given by South Washington County School District 833.

Some of the school’s other employees became concerned with Rucker’s relationship with female students from 2003 to 2005. The district restricted his employment to only Lake Junior High and Cottage Grove Junior High, but the abuse did not stop, according to the answer to the civil complaint given by South Washington County School District 833.

Rucker’s office was moved to a more public space, where he could never be alone with a student and he was restricted from giving students rides in his car. None of the actions stopped the abuse and the school did not end his employment with them, according to the complaint filed by the victim.

Because the school was unable to stop Rucker from sexually abusing the victim while he worked for them, the victim is taking the entire school district to court.