Family of assaulted student sues district

Officials may have known about teacher's relationship with boy

May 5, 2009

A lawsuit was filed May 1 against the St. Francis School District and a former Deer Creek Intermediate School teacher convicted of sexually assaulting a student last year.

The suit, filed by the victim's family, seeks damages from the district, claiming that school officials may have known about an inappropriate relationship formulating between the student and then-teacher Kelly Sweet, and failed to notify the boy's family, said George Misterorty, an attorney representing the family.

Principal resigned

A notice of claim was filed against the district last July but school officials did not respond, Misterorty said.

He said it is believed that Superintendent Carol Topinka and/or former Deer Creek Principal Terry Balster were aware of the teacher's relationship with the boy. Last year, Balster resigned for unknown reasons.

"(SFSD officials) didn't do enough to prevent it," Misterorty said.

The case is still under investigation, he said.

South Shore NOW sought information last year to see if Sweet had been reprimanded by the district. Topinka refused to release any records regarding Sweet, saying personnel matters are confidential.

Topinka said she was not aware of the lawsuit when questioned May 4.

Teacher was convicted

Sweet, 27, and the boy, who was 14 at the time of the incident, were watching a movie in Sweet's apartment. She was lying on a sofa with her head on the minor's lap. She then began kissing and sexually touching him, according to a criminal complaint.

Last August, Sweet was charged with fourth-degree sexual assault of a child, a misdemeanor. She was sentenced to 25 days in the House of Corrections, register as a sex offender during probation, seek recommended treatment and participate in a sex offender evaluation, have no contact with children under 18, and pay $2,300 in restitution to the victim's family.

Sweet lost her teaching license and was terminated from Deer Creek.

The victim is no longer enrolled in the SFSD.

The amount in damages that the victim's family is seeking is unknown at this time, but Misterorty said it could be close to $1.5 million.

District mum on claim

South Shore NOW filed an open records request April 29 with the SFSD to obtain the notice of claim. The request has not yet been served.

The notice of claim was turned over to the district's liability insurance company, Topinka said.

"That's all we know. We've heard nothing since," she said.

Sweet is currently a paralegal at her father's Lake Mills law firm.

A woman there, who identified herself as Kelly, answered the phone, but hung up after being questioned by South Shore NOW.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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