Student alleges assault by former James Clemens coach, failure by Madison City Schools Superintendent

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — A former James Clemens High School female student filed a lawsuit alleging assault and invasion of privacy by her former teacher and coach, and civil rights violations and negligent supervision by Madison City Schools’ superintendent.

The focus of the lawsuit is primarily on alleged conduct in 2017 by the then-junior varsity girls basketball coach Philip Dewayne Perkins and how the female student’s complaints were allegedly handled by Superintendent Robby Parker.

The lawsuit was filed by the student, listed as “Jane Doe,” in federal court last week.

It claims:

  • Perkins touched the student inappropriately on several occasions;
  • That the student was miserable and her grades suffered due to the misconduct, eventually causing her to consider suicide and undergo in-patient mental health treatment;
  • The case was referred to the Madison Police Department, and the Madison City Schools put Perkins on leave while it conducted its own investigation;
  • The police department did not charge anyone in connection with the matter;
  • The Madison City Schools’ investigation found no evidence to support the student’s claims and reinstated Perkins;
  • A second allegation of inappropriate conduct with another student was alleged. Perkins was again placed on leave for a period, but has been allowed to  return and teach online classes;
  • Parker negligently failed to train and supervise Perkins and failed to terminate him after notice of alleged abuse and assault.

The Madison City Schools provided the following statement to WHNT News 19 regarding the lawsuit:

“Superintendent Parker and an employee of Madison City Schools have been served with a lawsuit brought by the parents of an anonymous student who has petitioned the Court not to have their identity disclosed.

“This matter was fully investigated in 2018 by Madison Police Department after a complaint was brought to them by the family.

“Madison City Schools also investigated the matter after learning of the complaint made to the Madison Police Department.  Madison City Schools’ investigation included meetings with the family and interviews with students and faculty. The allegations of assault or other misconduct made at that time were not corroborated by either the Madison Police Department or the Madison City Schools’ investigation. Mr. Parker denies the allegations of the complaint and it will be vigorously defended.”

The lawsuit claims while the student was a 14-year-old freshman, she made the JV girls basketball team.  Perkins was both her coach and a teacher in one of her classes. The lawsuit claims he singled her out in both the classroom and on the court for mistakes, embarrassing her in front of classmates.

The lawsuit also contends Perkins singled the student out for other unwelcome attention. It reads, “At various points in the semester, Perkins commented to Doe that she was ‘not allowed to talk to any boys,’ that she was ‘[his] and no one else’s,’ and that she was ‘not allowed to sit with any boys.’

“During one incident, Perkins directed Doe to move away from two male classmates that she and two other teammates were socializing with on the gym bleachers. Perkins made Doe sit next to him while allowing her two female teammates to remain with the boys.”

The lawsuit alleges Perkins asked the student to go into the locker room with him to “go over plays,” but she declined and he became angry.

The lawsuit further alleges he touched the student on the buttocks “on several occasions.” The lawsuit also contends that during practices Perkins would guard the student on the basketball court and “used his arm to brush against her breasts.” The contact was intentional, the lawsuit claims, and that he touched her breasts at “almost every practice Doe attended.”

The conduct of Perkins made the student “miserable” in and out of the classroom, the lawsuit claims; her grades slipped and her parents noticed the change in her personality. She also began telling her parents that basketball practice was cancelled to avoid Perkins, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit also describes an alleged incident following a game in January 2018, where Perkins allegedly told her he was harder on her than the other players, because he looked at her “differently,” regarding her as more of a friend than a player.

The lawsuit then describes the student’s reaction to the alleged conversation: “Distressed and frightened, Doe began crying and turned to go back into the locker room. As she turned, Perkins reached out and grabbed Doe’s butt. Doe ran into the locker room, quickly changed, and went straight to her family and collapsed sobbing into her mother’s arms.”

The family knew she “hated” Perkins, the lawsuit claims, but “she found it impossible to explain the abuse she was suffering.” The family, unaware of the situation, encouraged her to finish the season, the lawsuit claims.

When it ended, the student allegedly spoke to the girls head basketball coach, telling her she was quitting because she “hated Perkins.” The coach didn’t ask any questions or ask about her issues with Perkins, the lawsuit claims.

The girl’s mental health suffered to the point where she threatened suicide, the lawsuit claims, eventually leading to in-patient mental health care. During that treatment, she told a counselor about the school encounters, the lawsuit claims, and they were eventually directed to the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville.

The lawsuit said she was interviewed there and the matter was referred to the Madison Police Department for investigation. The National Children’s Advocacy Center also set up weekly counseling for the student which she attended from July to October in 2018, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit says investigators spoke to Superintendent Parker in June 2018 about the matter, and Parker said the school system would also investigate. Parker suspended Perkins in August 2018 while police completed their investigation, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims police investigators were unable to reach Perkins, and the girl’s father was told police completed the investigation without speaking to Perkins.

The lawsuit argues Parker failed to supervise and train Perkins and should have terminated him in the wake of the allegations.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory damages for the student’s “severe emotional distress” and punitive damages for the alleged misconduct.

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