Large Claim Filed Against City and School District for Failure to Protect Children From Apparent Child Molester

Amidst the influx of sexual abuse lawsuits flooding mainstream media outlets, parents are finding it increasingly more difficult to trust those that they place their children in the care of. When an unsuspecting individual salaciously violates a child, a profound feeling of vulnerability resonates through the victim and surrounding community. The heinous actions committed by sexual deviants may never be fully atoned for. However, three families have recently filed a $3 million notice of claim against the Peoria school-district and city for the failure to act on apparent warning signs by an employee that sexually abused their daughters.

At 37 years of age, Mark Johnstone is currently serving a prison sentence that will witness his release when he is in his mid fifties. The 19-year prison sentence was handed down two years ago when he was convicted of molesting three girls between the ages of 7 and 9.

Though Johnstone is currently facing the repercussions of his actions, the parents of the victims believe the school district should be held responsible for their neglect to protect their children. Subsequently, the families of the three girls have recently filed a $3 million notice of claim to hold the Peoria school district equally responsible for what happened. “It astonishes me how they didn’t see the classic warning signs,” an attorney representing the families, acknowledged.

Accordingly, city and school officials of Peoria insist that they take allegations of lewd and salacious conduct very seriously. A spokesperson for the Peoria Unified School District stated that teachers and staff are instructed to use their professional judgement to assess particular situations. According to court documents, several school officials had suspicions of inappropriate behavioral patterns regarding Johnstone. However, experts on the subject of sexual abuse suggest that it is relatively common for warning signs to be ignored or missed.

Johnstone spent eight years as a groundskeeper at Cheyenne Elementary School. He also spent five years working part time to help run the city’s summer-recreation and before-and-after-school program. He had a clean background and generally positive job reviews. However, warning signs began to appear when he volunteered to coach the girls volleyball team. Johnsotne gained a reputation amongst the male students as a pervert when he began singling out his favorite girls. Subsequently, he continued to buy them necklaces, sit them on his lap for candy, and visit their classrooms for hugs.

Between June and August of 2007, during the city’s summer program at Cheyenne, Johnstone’s actions were taken a step further. Court documents acknowledge that he took one student to the school copy room and molested her. Subsequently, numerous other incidents took place on a bus during field trips with other students and staff on board, court filings said. Actions such as these had begun to raise concerns with school and city officials before anything had been reported.

Accordingly, parents complained of Johnstone’s actions to three teachers, three school administrators, and at leas one city employee. The city employee and several school employees said they had concerns of their own, according to court records. Documents indicate another teacher brought up Johnstone’s inappropriate behavior to the principal who continued to caution him.

One teacher confronted Johnstone and told him to “back off”, after receiving a complaint from a concerned mother. According to police records, the girl would “come home in 2005 and 2006 and say Mark gave her a little necklace or extra popsicle because she was his favorite. He told her how beautiful she was.” However, no steps were taken to get rid of Johnstone, nor were the police alerted to his alleged actions.

Following mounting controversy, Johnstone resigned from the district in May 2007, however, he continued to work at the city’s summer program. It was not until 2007 that Peoria police got the first parent complaint. As a result, the city put Johnstone on administrative leave in September of that year, and he resigned three months later.

Due to the severe nature of Johnstone’s actions and an evident disregard for their children’s safety, the parents of three of the victims have sought $3 million in compensation. Ignoring apparently evident warning signs may have placed their children in harms way and should result in a significant penalty. If the proper actions had been taken sooner, perhaps these adverse events could have been avoided.

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