Lawsuit says IPS failed to protect student from ex-counselor’s predatory behavior
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A student filed a federal lawsuit against Indianapolis Public Schools that accuses the district of turning a “blind eye” to the predatory behavior of a former school counselor who had sex with students.
The lawsuit alleges that IPS knew about Shana Taylor’s conduct and failed to protect him from her.
Taylor was arrested after being accused of having sex with students. She ended up taking a plea agreement that spared her from jail time. Instead, Taylor will spend six years on home detention. She won’t have to register as a sex offender but did relinquish her teaching license.
The district waited six days to report accusations regarding Taylor, inaction that led to the firing of two administrators an the resignations of three others. IPS retrained its staff on reporting procedures in response.
According to the lawsuit filed against the district, the 16-year-old student was enrolled at the Positive Supports Academy during the 2015-2016 school year. The lawsuit claims Taylor used her position as a school counselor to “sexually abuse and harass” the student on school premises during a five-month period.
The lawsuit, filed on Nov. 8, said the student “suffered sexual abuse, harassment, and discrimination and he seeks damages for the harm wrought by IPS’s failure to keep him safe in his school environment, and its failure to sufficiently supervise and train its officials and staff at Positive Supports Academy, as well as for the harm caused by the sexual abuse, harassment, and discrimination.”
The suit claims Taylor, in her position as counselor, was given “free rein” over guidance and counseling programs at Positive Supports Academy—a position that allowed her to “sexually abuse, harass and injure” the student.
The lawsuit alleges that Taylor’s office was located away from the majority of school officials and employees, enabling her to host male students in her office. The district discovered a “pattern of male students missing from class” only to be found with Taylor or in her office.
Officials then relocated Taylor’s office to the main level of the Positive Supports Academy building just two doors away from the principal’s office. The district didn’t take any additional action, the lawsuit alleges. Taylor kept the door to her office locked and covered or blocked the window.
The lawsuit alleges that Taylor provided gifts and special treatment to the student in order to “groom” him for sexual conquest. She contacted him on Facebook and sent inappropriate messages.
Taylor took the student out of class, sometimes multiple times in a day, under the guise of “counseling him.” During the supposed counseling sessions, the conversations turned sexual in nature and Taylor engaged in sex acts with the student. Sometimes they met away from school grounds, the lawsuit said.
She sent him sexually explicit photos via text messages as she continued to provide him with gifts and special attention both during and after school. She took him on shopping trips, smuggled his phone into school and provided him with marijuana and alcohol, the lawsuit said.
Staff at the academy noticed the student’s unauthorized absences but didn’t investigate the underlying reason behind them. IPS was also aware that students skipped class and regularly congregated in Taylor’s office.
Taylor, the lawsuit said, later became jealous of a relationship the student was having with a female classmate and placed him on a half-day schedule that forced him to miss out on “educational services and opportunities” provided by the academy.
The student’s mother found out about Taylor’s behavior and reported it to the school. Her son remained on the half-day schedule, however, which meant Taylor was “effectively punishing” the student and harming his educational development.
The lawsuit also takes exception to how IPS handled the situation—waiting six days before reporting the abuse allegations to DCS.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and consequential damages along with attorney fees and costs, among other relief.
Indianapolis Public Schools released a statement about the lawsuit:
“Indianapolis Public Schools, our superintendent and the IPS Board of School Commissioners take the education, safety and welfare of our students very seriously. The mission of IPS is to prepare and empower all students for life. Anything less than exemplary service for our families and students, is unacceptable. As a district, we continue to work on a daily basis to ensure an environment that is safe and conducive to learning and student growth. We will approach this matter with the seriousness that it requires and will remain fully engaged in the business of educating our youth.”