Updated at 1:40 p.m. with comments from the school’s founder Joseph Alexander.
A private school in the Bronx failed to take action after learning that a teacher had sexually abused at least one fourth-grader, according to a civil complaint filed on Monday in State Supreme court in the Bronx.
During the 2002-2003 school year, the complaint states, officials at New Covenant Christian School “had reason to know” that Edward Mills, a math teacher had inappropriately touched Shannon Young, an eight-year-old girl at the time. Young is suing the school and several employees, alleging that they “failed to prevent and/or stop the same from occurring, recurring and continuing.”
The complaint claims that Mills, who had worked at the school since 1999, sexually abused Young from September 2002 through June 2003. According to Young’s attorney Michele Betti, Mills often pulled Young out of her homeroom class, specifically requesting her help with something. Betti says that Mills also sometimes drove Young and other girls home from school.
Mills then tried “kiss them or get more aggressive,” says Betti.
Five sets of parents had made abuse allegations against Mills to Principal Gail Matthews, Betti claims. When the parents went to Matthews mid-way through the school year, however, they deemed that she was not taking the accusations seriously, Betti says. When the parents took their complaints to the school’s founder, Joseph Alexander, Betti alleges that he pushed them to stay silent on the matter.
Alexander strongly disputes this version of events.
“Absolutely not true,” he says. “Once we heard the allegations against Mr. Mills, he was immediately suspended…. We asked Mr. Mills not to be involved with children any more.”
Alexander notes that police officers arrested Mills at his home and not at the school.
“It was such a mysterious case in terms of what happened,” says Alexander. “When it went to trial it was dismissed. There was no medical evidence. I’m confounded that this has come out again.”
Mills is not listed in New York state’s sex offender database.
In the complaint, Young charges the school and several employees with negligence. The defendants listed include Mills, Matthews, Alexander, fourth grade teacher Tanesha Fletcher, and the school’s parent company, New Covenant Christian Education Association.
Next: the text of the complaint.