Law­suits in­volv­ing ex-Har­risonville school staffer set­tled for $4M

The Kansas City Star - - Lee's Summit Journal - BY KAIT­LYN SCHWERS kschw­[email protected]­star.com Kait­lyn Schwers: 816-234-7909, @kait­lyn­schw­ers

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.

FIRST LAW­SUIT

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.

RE­LA­TION­SHIP QUES­TIONED

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.

SEC­OND LAW­SUIT

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.

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