An Oklahoma school district settled a lawsuit with a student’s family after an English teacher went to prison for raping the student.
The student’s father filed a lawsuit against Hollis Middle School alleging that they covered up the crime against his then eighth-grade son that sent former middle school teacher Jennifer Caswell, 31, to prison for ten years in May 2015, the Daily Mail reported.
More than two years after Caswell’s sentencing, the district paid the family $125,000 for their teenage son’s ordeal, according to Charles Watt, an attorney for the victim’s family.
The family alleged that school officials told the boy to keep quiet about the relationship, the boy’s grades suffered because of the relationship, and that he suffered emotional distress and humiliation when word about the relationship got out to classmates.
“The truth is that this has a terrible effect on a child,” said Watt. “You can expect in his future life that he will have a hard time with relationships.”
The family also claimed that the school district allowed Caswell to resign, so she did not have to forfeit her teaching credentials.
Andy Fugitt, an attorney representing the school district, argued that the district cooperated with the authorities after Caswell’s resignation and said the decision to revoke a teacher’s credentials lies with the Oklahoma Department of Education instead of the school district.
“The school district responded to the information it had — which was very limited — in an appropriate way,” Fugitt told the Oklahoman.
According to the lawsuit, Caswell continued the inappropriate relationship with the boy after she resigned from her teaching position without the father’s knowledge.
Harmon County District Judge Richard Darby gave Caswell a 15-year prison sentence with five years suspended for the six separate instances where the former English teacher had sex with the 15-year-old victim. The court also ordered that the sentences run concurrently so she would serve a total of ten years in prison.
Caswell appeared on The Dr. Phil Show before she went to prison, claiming that the 15-year-old threw himself at her and she was “not a rapist.”
“I didn’t force anything. I didn’t manipulate. I didn’t take advantage,” Caswell said.
Caswell will be eligible for parole six and a half years from now due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws that force her to serve eight and a half years out of her ten-year sentence. She will have to register as a sex offender upon her release.
The victim’s family also filed a civil suit against Caswell for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The case is still pending and will go before a federal judge in Oklahoma City later this year.
Caswell decided not to defend herself in the civil case.
“I suspect she will never be a wealthy woman to pay our clients,” said Watts. “My clients felt like she really did them wrong.”