Board, ex-teacher face $130 million suit

October 16, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

The parents of five teen-age girls filed a $130 million lawsuit in Harford County Circuit Court Thursday against their daughters' former social studies teacher and the Harford County Board of Education.

The 18-count suit alleges sexual harassment and assault by the teacher, as well as negligence, wrongful hiring and educational malpractice on the part of school administrators.

It stems from incidents the parents claim occurred while their children were eighth-graders last year at Magnolia Middle School in Joppa.

The parents are seeking punitive and compensatory damages and payment of the girls' medical expenses for psychological counseling.

Richard N. Banz of Fallston, the teacher named in the suit, taught social studies to the school's seventh- and eighth-graders. He won Harford County's 1993 Teacher-Historian award.

The suit claims, among its 50 allegations, that Mr. Banz, who was 26 at the time, had each girl take an "IQ test" with her eyes closed and lean over his desk in such a way that he could peer into her blouse. It also alleges that Mr. Banz touched each girl's hair.

The parents claim in the suit that the girls, who were then 13, continue to experience feelings of humiliation, shame and loss of self-esteem.

One of the girls attempted suicide in May, the suit says.

Mr. Banz was suspended with pay from the school system last Oct. 27, after the teens' parents complained to school administrators.

After his suspension, school officials asked Protective Services,

a division of the county's Department of Social Services, to investigate the case, along with the Harford County Child Advocacy Center.

"We classified the allegations as inappropriate behavior, possibly leering, but leering is not illegal," Sgt. Edward Hopkins, a sheriff's criminal investigator assigned to the center, said after the investigation.

No criminal charges were filed against Mr. Banz, who resigned from the school system Feb. 11.

The untenured teacher had been employed by the Harford school system since Aug. 28, 1992. He was employed by the Baltimore County school system from September 1989 to July 1992 and had taught at Middle River Middle School.

The suit also alleges that the Board of Education should have known about Mr. Banz's propensities and claims that the teacher had engaged in a course of action that was "sexually, mentally and emotionally abusive" in a former job.

"We deny the allegations," Harford schools spokesman Donald R. Morrison said Friday. "We look forward to the opportunity of presenting our side in court."

Jody Aud, of the Baltimore County school system, declined to comment on Mr. Banz's employment record there.

Attempts to reach Mr. Banz for comment were unsuccessful.

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