Elementary principal denies negligence claims

ELKHART — An Elkhart elementary school principal is denying claims made in a lawsuit that says he negligently handled abuse allegations involving two students and has asked that it be dismissed.

The lawsuit brought on by the parents of a former Mary Daly Elementary School student claims that Principal Josh Nice was negligent in responding to sexual assault, abuse and battery of their daughter by a classmate. It was filed in January in Elkhart County court.

Nice’s lawyer filed an answer in court this week denying that the alleged incidents of abuse took place. It asserts that “many of the allegations did not actually occur” and denies that the actions attributed to Nice happened either.

It also asserts that any acts that may have caused damages to the family were unrelated to any alleged action or inaction by either Nice or the school.

The parents claim that incidents of abuse occurred “repeatedly” inside the elementary school and on the playground in August 2017. They say school officials knew about the abuse but refused to protect the girl and continued to allow contact between the students.

The parents say they didn’t find out about the alleged incidents themselves until two weeks later. They were forced to move their daughter to another school to protect her from the other student, according to the lawsuit, which among other things seeks $700,000 in compensation for each incident.

The response filed Monday by attorney Kevin Vanderground acknowledges that the parents of the 6-year-old contacted the school about the alleged incidents. It also acknowledges that Elkhart Community Schools has certain duties to students, by law, and that the district is liable for Nice’s actions taken as an employee.

In a separate motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Vanderground says the parents are barred by law from making claims against Nice personally. He notes that the Indiana Tort Claims Act provides that if a lawsuit alleges a governmental employee acted within the scope of his job, action can’t be brought against the employee personally.

Under Indiana trial rules, a motion to dismiss is the appropriate action in such a case, the filing states. A hearing on the motion to dismiss was set for April 12 before Elkhart County Superior Court 2 Judge Stephen Bowers.

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