Massac County school officials ignored complaints and their own disciplinary actions against an elementary school teacher and as a result failed to protect a female student from being sexually abused nearly 30 years ago, attorneys for the now 35-year-old woman argued Tuesday.

Sufficient evidence, the attorneys wrote, exists to deny a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the past Massac Unit School District administrators.

The attorney for those administrators argued they should be removed as defendants for several reasons, including insufficient facts to support claims they knew or should have known of alleged sexual abuse.

In response, the woman’s attorneys Tuesday filed their response to a Dec. 21 motion for a summary judgment, which would release from the lawsuit former Superintendent Donald Smith and former Franklin Elementary Principal Reuben Bremer.

Also named as a defendant in the 2012 civil lawsuit is Darryl Bentson, a former physical education teacher accused of sexually abusing the woman when she was a third-grade student at Franklin Elementary in the 1985-86 school year.

Court papers show that the woman recalled suppressed or repressed memories of the abuse upon a chance sighting of Bentson in 2010.

Bentson, attorney Mark S. Johnson said, unequivocally denies the allegations and is deeply troubled by them. Johnson has his own motion to dismiss pending; he cites the statute of limitations.

Bentson “is looking forward to the trial to set the record straight,” Johnson said.

A fourth defendant is current Superintendent William Hatfield, who is seeking his own dismissal from the lawsuit.

The case is scheduled for trial April 29.

The attorneys for the woman, indentified in court papers as Jane Doe 77, are Kenneth M. Chackes and Nicole Gorovsky . Chackes declined comment.

Representing the district and the administrators is Edwardsville attorney Merry C. Rhoades, who did not return a call for comment.

The woman’s attorneys contend Bremer and Smith failed to investigate or discipline Bentson despite a history of warnings from parents and teachers in the early 1980s.

At one point, Bentson was purportedly reprimanded for an incident in which the woman claims he broke her arm. But her attorneys say no investigation or monitoring followed. From there, they said, his abuse escalated to sexually abusing the girl.

Bentson, they note, denied he was ever reprimanded or that he was involved in the girl breaking her arm.

The woman’s attorneys contend Bremer and Smith failed to protect the girl, and argue Smith even attempted to squelch the accusations.

Rhoades, the district’s attorney, maintains there are no material facts to support allegations that Bremer and Smith knew that a sexual abuse occurred or should have known, or that they failed to protect the girl.

She also cites an instance in which Smith had become aware of alleged sexual abuse by a Massac County High School teacher in late 1985 or early 1986 and that employee, following an investigation, was terminated. Rhoades also points to the statute of limitations.

While the woman’s lawyers contend timeline for filing a lawsuit began when their client recalled the alleged sexual abuse, which she claims was 2010, Rhoades points to testimony by a mid-wife who has testified that she was aware in 1994 that the woman had been sexually abused.

Many of the facts of the case also are in dispute.


(1) comment


This brave victim is to be commended for having the courage to speak up and take action to expose her truth about being sexually abused. This is not an easy thing to do. So let's hope that every person who saw, suspected or may have suffered sex crimes by Darryl Bentson, will find the courage and strength to come forward, call police, expose wrongdoing, protect others and start healing.

Keep in mind child predators rarely have only one victim and your silence only hurts, and by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511.,
"SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word priest in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, teachers, Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like orphanages, summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc."

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