Family sues LaPorte schools for up to $18.7 million in sex case

2012-05-24T18:15:00Z 2012-05-25T23:35:04Z Family sues LaPorte schools for up to $18.7 million in sex caseBy Marisa Kwiatkowski marisa.kwiatkowski@nwi.com, (219) 662-5333 nwitimes.com

LAPORTE | The family of a girl who was sexually involved with her former junior varsity volleyball coach filed a lawsuit Thursday against the state, school district and employees, claiming officials ignored indications the relationship was happening, court records state.

The family also claims LaPorte Community School Corp. failed to properly supervise its employees and failed to provide a safe environment for their then-15-year-old daughter. The family is seeking up to $18.7 million in damages from the state, LaPorte Community School Corp., Athletic Director Edward Gilliland and head volleyball coach MaryBeth Lebo and the perpetrator, former junior varsity volleyball coach Robert Ashcraft.

Ashcraft was found guilty last year of four felonies relating to his sexual relationship with the girl: three counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and one count of child seduction, court records show. He currently is serving a 21-year prison sentence.

Gilliland and Lebo each have been charged with two misdemeanor counts of failure of duty to report the sexual crimes. They are accused of having reason to believe the relationship was happening and not reporting it to law enforcement or child protective services between August 2007 and October 2008, court records state.

Those cases still are pending in LaPorte Superior Court.

According to the lawsuit, Ashcraft and the girl had sex about 25 times between September 2007 and summer 2009. They met in 2007 when she was playing at a volleyball club near Rolling Prairie.

"We had hoped to avoid filing a lawsuit, but the indictments of the school corporation, Lebo and Gilliland cut off communication between the school corporation and the family," said attorney Tim Stoesz, who represents the family. "Unfortunately, I think this is another instance of the school placing its interests ahead of the interests of its students."

LaPorte schools Superintendent Glade Montgomery declined Thursday to comment on the lawsuit.

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