School Board to Face Trial Over Abusive Actions of Former Teacher

In a February 4 ruling by the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of appeals, it was found that the St. Bernard Parish School Board (SBPSB) will face trial on a lawsuit claiming SBPSB was “vicariously liable” for the inappropriate conduct of a special education teacher.

Specifically, former special education teacher at Lacoste Elementary David Kimberly previously plead guilty to charges that he had engaged in inappropriate behavior with a 5th grade student. This behavior dates back to the 2013-2014 school year, when Kimberly had—on multiple occasions—taken the victim on multiple “outings” both with and without the victim’s mother’s permission. One of these “outings” included a trip to I-Hop during school hours without the mother’s permission.

Additionally, “according to the [victim’s] therapy notes,” Kimberly had kissed the victim on the head, asked him to “wear diapers,” and even “volunteered to change the diapers of students at school.”

The victim and his mother would move to Tennessee in October 2014 (for reasons not related to Kimberly’s actions), but Kimberly would stay in contact with the victim. The 4th circuit ruling states that Kimberly set up a “special email account” for the victim to ensure they could maintain communications. Kimberly made sure to instruct the victim to always sign out of the email account when he wasn’t using it.

Through that email account, Kimberly sent several inappropriate pictures and statements to the victim. These included—based on comments from the victim—pictures of Kimberly in “soiled diapers” and an offer from Kimberly to “travel to [Tennessee], obtain a hotel room and have [the victim] stay with him.”

The mother of the victim would file suit against Kimberly and the St. Bernard School Board on October 26, 2017. This lawsuit included a claim of negligence against the school board.

In response, the school board would argue that they couldn’t be held liable for Kimberly’s actions as “[his] actions were not reasonably foreseeable” and that he had passed a background check the school board conducted prior to his employment.

Evidently, the appeals court disagrees. The ruling concluded that there was evidence “sufficient to support the claim” that the school board can be held liable for the actions of Kimberly. The ruling notes that there is a significant precedent within Louisiana of holding employers liable for abusive actions of their employees. This means, the school board will now have to prove why they are not liable for Kimberly’s actions in a formal trial.