• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Lawsuit filed against former WCHS choir teacher, school board

A former Woodford County High School teacher and the local Board of Education are named in a civil suit filed by the parents of two students who told authorities that the teacher had inappropriate communications with them.

The federal suit claims the former choir teacher had unlawful contact with the sisters (identified as K.G. and M.G. in the suit), including sexual touching, as well as written, verbal and electronic communications of a sexual and abusive nature.

As of Tuesday morning, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said he had not received an official copy of the complaint. “Until we have a chance to review that with our attorneys and the (school) board,” he said last week, “I really can’t comment on that pending litigation…”

Hawkins did address the district’s response to allegations that a teacher made inappropriate comments to a student.

“When the allegations were made around the middle of August,” Hawkins said, “we acted immediately. And I do believe we dealt with that situation in an appropriate manner.”

Former choir teacher J. Cooper Schrimsher was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 16. His letter of resignation was tendered and accepted Aug. 24, according to Hawkins.

The civil lawsuit filed in federal court identifies the former teacher who made the alleged unlawful communications and contact with the WCHS students by the initials J.C.S.

The suit alleges that the school board failed to comply with state and federal educational laws with respect to the performance of J.C.S.’s duties as choir director and facilitator of extracurricular activities at WCHS. It argues school employees had knowledge of J.C.S.’s unlawful conduct as early as March 2018, “yet failed to act in a manner that guaranteed the safety and security of K.G. and M.G. and other minor students.”

The lawsuit asserts that “after receiving at least one formal complaint about J.C.S.’s behavior, the Board, through its authorized agents, oversaw and approved the scheduling of K.G. as a ‘Teacher’s Aid’ during J.C.S.’s ‘Teacher Planning Period’ beginning August 2018…”

The lawsuit alleges that on Aug. 14, 2018, K.G. recorded a conversation with J.C.S. and his insinuation that his sexual attraction to minor students is okay because “it’s natural.”

Beginning in 2017 and continuing until August 2018, the lawsuit alleges that J.C.S. (30 years old) engaged in prurient contact with the sisters – both on and off campus.

In 2017, the lawsuit alleges J.C.S. obtained K.G.’s personal cell phone number from the school’s RemindApp and began texting her – at first to remind her about extracurricular activities and upcoming choir events. His text messages eventually became inappropriate and sexual in nature, the lawsuit asserts.

On one occasion in his office, the lawsuit alleges that J.C.S. showed K.G. a photo of her in a bikini, which he had downloaded from K.G.’s Facebook profile, and told her, “I wish I could see right through that.”

The lawsuit further alleges that J.C.S. placed Victoria Secret gift certificates in K.G.’s book bag during the school day, gave her “squishy toys” at school and promised her a role in the school play, “Beauty and the Beast,” and inappropriately hugged her backstage in April 2018.

The suit alleges that J.C.S. “upped the ante” by befriending K.G. and M.G.’s parents. He appeared at their family home for several social gatherings and on one occasion “became inebriated and passed out on their living room couch,” the suit alleges.

The lawsuit asserts on another occasion at the home that J.C.S. told M.G. he would teach her a “breathing technique” to help her sing better in the choir. He insisted that he stand behind M.G. “with his arms around her so that he could hold her waist and the undercarriage of her rib cage while she breathed deeply with her back against his chest. This incident made M.G. extremely uncomfortable,” the suit alleges.

When J.C.S. called M.G. to his office the following week to apologize, the suit alleges that “J.C.S. insisted that M.G. hug him” and during the hug “put his hands on M.G.’s buttocks and squeezed. M.G. left J.C.S.’s office angry and humiliated.”

The suit argues K.G. and M.G. suffered irreparable and lasting injuries as a result of the defendants’ violations of federal, state and common laws. It seeks a jury trial and a judgment for all actual, compensatory and punitive damages as well as repayment of attorney fees and costs, and injunction relief.

A criminal investigation by Kentucky State Police into the allegations is ongoing, according to State Trooper Bernis Napier. He said no criminal charges have been filed against Schrimsher.

A lawsuit only gives one side of a story. Schrimsher was unavailable for comment.

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