A lawsuit filed March 27, 2012 by a woman who claimed former Unit One teacher Darryl Bentson had sexually abused her as a student, has now been settled and the plaintiff, Jane Doe, born in 1977, under the terms of the settlement, is poised to receive a total of $100,000.
The suit was initially against four individuals: William Hatfield, current superintendent; Donald Smith, former district superintendent; Reuben Bremer, former Franklin Elementary School principal; and Bentson. However, according to the copy of the settlement agreement and release, Hatfield, who had no employment relationship or other association with the district at the time of the alleged abuse was verbally granted dismissal from the lawsuit on June 25, 2013 and memorialized in its Aug. 22, 2013 written order dismissing Hatfield.
The plantiff alleged she was physically and sexually assaulted at several locations at the school and alleges the assaults took place in a P.E. storage room and physical abuse occurred on the school playground. She also alleges that Bentson was verbally derisive and referred to her repeatedly as “fat and lazy.”
In the suit, the victim saw Bentson in 2010 in a mall parking lot and the chance sighting triggered an extreme emotional reaction. The victim panicked and was paralyzed with fear. According to the suit, during the next few days, memories of the sexual abuse that Bentson perpetrated on her came flooding back. Since that time, the victim has sought and received psychological counseling and treatment.
According to the suit, the girl’s mother was approached in 1982 by another teacher who warned her to look out for her daughter by saying she “was the type that Bentson liked to pick on.” Despite knowledge of the school’s officials who apparently had chastised Bentson in the early 1980s for “leering” at girls in the locker room, Bentson was allowed to have continued, unsupervised access to children and the school never investigated the claims brought against him.
From information in the suit, the physical, emotional and sexual abuse occurred while Doe was under the control of Bentson, as an employee of Massac School District in areas of the school that Bentson had access to by virtue of his employment. Also in the suit, Doe says Bentson also threatened Doe that if she told anyone about the abuse, he would kill or torture her and kill her mother.
Bentson was employed by the district “in various capacities, including at various times, teacher, lunch monitor and recess supervisor,” the suit says. The 11-count suit sought unspecified compensatory and exemplary damages for the harm and stress caused to Jane Doe.
At the Unit One board meeting in December, the board approved the settlement agreement and release, which states, “This agreement does not constitute, nor shall it be construed as, an admission of any of Doe’s allegations in the action or legal liability or any malfeasance or nonfeasance of any of the district defendants or Bentson.
Also included in the agreement, the insurer shall pay to Doe and her attorneys $75,000 and Massac Unit One School District will pay Doe through her attorneys, $25,000. Both the insurer and district will have 30 days to fully execute the agreement.
According to the agreement, Bentson is not a party to the agreement and has not given his approval to the district’s settlement of Doe’s claims against him on Benton’s behalf. It states, “The parties agree that the district has all necessary authority to resolve Doe’s claims against Bentson in the action, and that Doe’s acceptance of the district settlement payment indicates her agreement that the district has such authority.”
According to Merry C. Rhoades, attorney with Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt, “As for the payment on behalf of Bentson, we did not represent Darryl Bentson in this matter. The settlement is being made so that the District could end all matters related to the lawsuit, including the separate action by the insurance company claim it did not have to provide coverage for this claim.”