Lawsuit Over Student, Teacher Relationship at Episcopal School of Dallas Now Federal Case

Exactly one year ago, parents of a former student at Episcopal School of Dallas sued the private school for unspecified damages, insisting it should have known about -- and stopped -- teacher Nathan Campbell's advances and ultimately sexual relationship with their daughter, who was 16 at the time. The parents also alleged that the school forced their daughter, whose grandfather is an Episcopal priest, out of ESD by making her sign a voluntary withdrawal form under the threat of expulsion: "Instead of nurturing the Victim and helping her recover, ESD betrayed her yet again by constructively expelling her from the school for being a victim of the very sexual abuse ESD permitted," alleges the amended complaint, filed three weeks ago in Dallas County District Court.

Two days later, on April 28, ESD filed a second motion for summary judgment, insisting that the family couldn't get more than half a million in damages from the school because "as a 501(c)(3) non-profit accredited secondary school, it qualifies for charitable immunity under Chapter 84 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code ... [and] is entitled to the charitable immunity statute's $500,000 cap on damages." The school also insists it "had no actual notice that Campbell was engaging in the behavior." Furthermore, when it came to the girl's removal from the school, which she'd attended since kindergarten, ESD insists it was in the right there too:

ESD had the absolute discretion to separate Jane Doe II from the school. Courts will not interfere with a private school's exercise of its own judgment in dismissing a student, as the relationship is a contractual one. Because ESD was entitled to act within its discretion and did so, no gross negligence or intentional tort arises from its decision to separate her from the school.
But on May 13, the girl's parents filed papers with the court insisting ESD is far from a charitable organization, merely "the most expensive private school in Dallas County." Says the suit, the parents paid the school more than $1 million during her tenure there, only to then watch ESD's higher-ups take "the extremely uncharitable position of kicking Jane Doe II out of school."

Now that the family is attacking its nonprofit status (the phrase "tax fraud" has been bandied about), ESD now wants the federal courts to get involved. That filing, along with others mentioned above, follows. Among the stack of docs: depositions related to the creation of the school and its relationship with the Episcopal Diocese, including one with Reverend Stephen Swann, the school's founding rector and headmaster.

Update at 11:52 a.m.: Reps for attorneys Charla Aldous and Brent Walker just sent word that the family has filed an emergency motion to remand the case back to state court. "If the family is successful," says the note, "trial is scheduled to begin on June 6." That doc -- which also asks for sanctions against Locke Lorde Bissell & Lidell attorney Chrysta Castaneda, who is repping ESD -- also follows now.

Update at 5:20 p.m.: Judge Sam Lindsey today scheduled a hearing at 9 a.m. Friday on the family's motion to remand back to state court.

ESD Parents First Amended ComplaintESD'S NO-EVIDENCE MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENTESD Parents Response to SumJudg MotionESD Removal to Fed Court3- Motion for Remand and for Sanctions 5-21-11

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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