Former teacher, Joplin School District named in lawsuits

Lawsuits are now pending in Jasper County Circuit Court not only against a former North Middle School former teacher, but also against the Joplin School District.

One of the plaintiffs filed separate suits against the district and Amanda Schweitzer, who was charged in April 2017 with child kidnapping, first-degree statutory rape and first-degree statutory sodomy in Newton County, and first-degree statutory rape in Jasper County.

The suits describe incidents of alleged sexual misconduct by Schweitzer with three former North Middle School students, all younger than 15, including incidents alleged to have taken place at the school. The suit against the school district cites the Missouri Human Rights Act, alleging the district “failed to take steps to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment by its faculty.” The petition against Schweitzer accuses her of negligent infliction of emotional distress. It alleges she picked up one of the boys from his family’s home after he missed a school bus, took him to her home and had sex with him.

The suit against Schweitzer was brought by the mother of two of Schweitzer’s alleged victims, including the boy she allegedly had sex with in her home. The suit against the school district also includes a second plaintiff, the mother of another one of Schweitzer’s alleged victims.

Matthew Wilson, a Springfield attorney representing the school district, said Tuesday that the district had no knowledge of Schweitzer’s alleged conduct before receiving a parental complaint and immediately placed Schweitzer on leave, instigated an internal investigation and contacted Joplin police and other authorities when the complaint was received.

Wilson said he had not yet seen the suit against the district, which was filed on Dec. 28, but was familiar with the situation given the criminal proceedings against Schweitzer and her previous position with the school district. The suit against Schweitzer was filed on Nov. 3, 2017.

Mike Fleming and Ted Kapke, Lee’s Summit attorneys representing the plaintiffs in both suits, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the suits needed to be brought separately because the allegations against the school district deal with public accommodations under the MHRA, and Schweitzer wouldn’t personally have a legal responsibility to uphold those. The lawyers repeated their stance from the suit that the school district didn’t do enough to prevent Schweitzer’s alleged actions that took place at the school.

In all, three North students are mentioned in the suits as having received various unwanted sexual advances from Schweitzer. Two of them are sons of one of the plaintiffs and the other victim is the son of the second plaintiff. Both suits ask for jury trials in addition to unspecified monetary damages and attorneys’ fees.

The suit against the school district alleges that Schweitzer began “grooming” three underage male students at North Middle School in early 2017 by sending them increasingly suggestive and sexual text and social media messages. In one incident at the school, the suit alleges, Schweitzer “ran her hand through (the student)’s hair and nibbled on his ear. She later messaged him via Instagram and asked him if he enjoyed it.”

After that student blocked her from being able to communicate with him online, the suit alleges, Schweitzer “turned her attention” to another of the minors in late March 2017 and had sex with him twice, in addition to having unspecified “sexual misconduct” with him in her classroom. It is that second student who is the one also mentioned in the suit against Schweitzer as having been taken to her home for sex. Finally, the suit against the district alleges, Schweitzer “engaged in unwanted sexual touching” of the third student about the same time.

Criminal cases

The criminal charges against Amanda Schweitzer remain pending in the circuit courts in both Jasper and Newton counties.

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