Lawsuits involving ex-Harrisonville school staffer settled for $4M
A total of $4 million was paid on behalf of the Harrisonville School District to settle two separate lawsuits that accused a former high school employee, the son of the former superintendent, of having sexual relationships with two students.
The information was released this week in a records request made by The Star.
The school district, which released the settlement amount to the newspaper, stated that $2 million each was paid on behalf of the district to settle both lawsuits, which were filed in Cass County Circuit Court last year. The amount was first reported by Missouri Lawyers Media after a judge approved a settlement in one of the cases last month.
The lawsuits, filed separately by two former students, initially named as defendants the school district; the former staffer, Joseph Dahman; his father, former superintendent Frank Dahman; and other administrators and teachers. The school district was later released as a party to these civil cases.
Attorneys representing the school district, the Dahmans and the plaintiff in the second lawsuit did not return a request for comment on the settlements Tuesday. Samuel Wendt of Wendt Law Firm, which represents a teenage girl in the first lawsuit, said he had no comment.
The first lawsuit was filed in January 2019 on behalf of a teen, who was 14 when she began attending Harrisonville High School. Joseph Dahman worked there during the 2016-2017 school year.
According to the suit,
Joseph Dahman allegedly had an inappropriate sexual relationship with the girl that involved the sharing of pornographic images, use of illegal substances and sexual contact on and off campus, including in his vehicle and home.
A number of teachers and administrators became suspicious that the teen and Joseph spent a lot of time together, the lawsuit alleged.
She told several people, including the superintendent, that Joseph Dahman was her best friend, according to the suit.
But none of those people intervened or reported it, the lawsuit stated.
In August 2017, administrators questioned the girl about her relationship with Joseph Dahman and took her cellphone to look for text messages between them. She told them about the relationship and police were called.
Shortly after the allegations came to light, the suit stated, a teacher told some students that the girl and Joseph Dahman were involved in an inappropriate relationship.
The girl then was “harassed, bullied and teased” by other students to such an extent that she was forced to leave school and finish her studies through online courses.
The teen contended in a settlement agreement, which was approved by a Cass County judge Feb. 26, that she suffered “pain, shock, emotional distress, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliation and loss of enjoyment of life” as a result of the actions of Joseph Dahman and lack of response from the superintendent, Frank Dahman. Both denied the allegations.
The settlement amount was not disclosed during the hearing last month in Cass County. Attorneys representing the teen, her mother, and attorneys representing the remaining defendants, Frank and Joseph Dahman, were present.
The second lawsuit was filed in February 2019 on behalf of a second female student who was assigned to a focus room at the high school where Joseph Dahman was a facilitator in 2017.
The suit, which has since been dismissed, alleged sexual harassment and abuse by Joseph Dahman.
According to the suit, Joseph Dahman allegedly had sexual contact with the student, showed her pornographic material, sent her explicit messages and images, and made comments about her physical appearance.
The incidents allegedly took place on and off the school campus from April to August in 2017 when the girl was 16 and 17 years old, according to the lawsuit. It stated that Joseph Dahman, who was also a coach, had contact with the teen during the summer as she worked at a school-sponsored football camp.
In the spring of 2017, Joseph Dahman reportedly cautioned the teen to be careful about contacting him at school because other teachers made comments to him about how close he was with her, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit stated that other employees in the school district “knew or should have known” that Joseph Dahman was sexually harassing and having physical contact with the teen, “yet, no remedial action was taken.”
Though no criminal charges have been filed, a police investigation into the allegations was ongoing, a Harrisonville police spokesman told The Star last month.