Lawsuit filed against private school, ex-teacher in pending sex abuse case


News from around the Baltimore region

July 06, 2005|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

An attorney for a 13-year-old girl has filed a civil lawsuit against a small East Baltimore private school and one of its former teachers who is awaiting trial on charges of raping and sexually abusing three teenage girls.

The lawsuit names convicted felon Charles Carroll, 28, the Community Initiatives Academy and principal Christina V. Phillips Holtsclaw as defendants. It seeks $6 million in damages.

Carroll, who is being held without bail, was hired by the school in the 1400 block of E. Biddle St. about a year after he was released from prison in 2001 after serving time for a second-degree murder conviction.

The lawsuit, filed late last month, contends Holtsclaw and the school were negligent for hiring Carroll, who they knew was a felon, and not informing parents about his past. It charges that they did not adequately supervise him.

Neither the school nor Holtsclaw returned phone calls seeking comment about the lawsuit, which also claims the girl suffered physical and emotional damage after allegedly being raped by Carroll in a classroom in February.

In past interviews, the principal said she wanted to give Carroll a second chance and did not think his murder conviction - which stemmed from a fight in 1995 - posed a threat to children.

"Sometimes people like that ... they don't get a chance," Holtsclaw told The Sun in May. "I felt [the murder] had nothing to do with children, and I hired him."

John Amato IV, a lawyer representing the 13-year-old plaintiff and her mother, said the lawsuit was spurred in part by Holtsclaw's comments to The Sun and other news organizations.

"It just shows me she appointed herself the decision-maker in this case without input from people who deserve to know, namely, the parents and students," Amato said.

The names of the plaintiff and her mother are not being published because The Sun does not identify people who may have been sexually victimized.

After the arrest, which occurred after a parent called police about the allegations, some parents were outraged that the school did not inform them of Carroll's criminal background.

Under state law, private schools are required to do a background check of all their employees but are not required to give the results to state officials. There are no state laws regulating who can teach in a private school. Public schools, on the other hand, are forbidden from hiring a teacher who has been convicted of a violent crime.

Carroll, who also faces charges that he groped two other students in March and April, pleaded not guilty last month. He is scheduled to stand trial Aug. 11.

His attorney, Warren A. Brown, has argued that the case against Carroll is weak because the victims did not immediately come forward. Brown also said it was his client who first informed the school administration about the allegations against him.

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