Lawsuit accuses Andalusia coach, principal of sexual misconduct with student

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges a student was sexually assaulted by the head basketball coach and was subjected to sexual harassment by the principal while at Andalusia High School.

The Andalusia City Schools Board of Education, Superintendent Ted Watson and Andalusia High School Principal Daniel Shakespeare are named as defendants in a Title IX lawsuit filed on Friday in Alabama’s Middle District. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination by an educational program that receives federal funding.

The complaint states school officials chose to hire former basketball coach Anthony Clark, 50, despite their knowledge he engaged in inappropriate relationships with students and teaching assistants in previous positions at other schools.

The lawsuit states the conduct continued at Andalusia High School with the student during the 2017-2018 school year while the student was 17 and 18 years old.

The lawsuit explicitly describes alleged sexual encounters between Clark and the student on and off campus. During the school day Clark would allegedly send the student a code word, which meant for them to meet for sex.

During this time, the lawsuit states other educators at the school were aware of the inappropriate relationship. However, it was not reported as is required by law. During the course of their relationship, the complaint states Shakespeare became aware of the student-teacher relationship with Clark and instead of investigating and reporting the relationship - he began to make sexual overtures toward the student.

“Principal acknowledged several times the sexual relationship between Minor Child and Coach, making such comments to such as ‘why do you want a white man when you could have me?’” the lawsuit states.

It also lists other examples of Shakespeare allegedly sexually staring at the student in the hall, offering to “spank” the student in his office, and throwing his checkbook, asking how much it would cost for them to be together after graduation.

In April 2018, the student overdosed on drugs and was rushed to the hospital. A suicide note to Clark was located after the incident. The student’s family reported this information to the Andalusia Police Department, which launched an investigation. The school was immediately notified, however the complaint states the district took no action to conduct their own investigation nor put Clark on leave.

“After learning of the inappropriate behavior of Coach, Defendant Andalusia City Schools Board of Education, by and through its agents, including but not limited to, Principal, Superintendent, and other Andalusia High School Staff Members, was deliberately indifferent to the abuse, failed to properly investigate the abuse, failed to promptly and properly report the abuse, and failed to take proper remedial action,” the complaint states. “In further exacerbation of the scenario, Superintendent even went so far as to hide Coach from authorities.”

The complaint says attorneys hired by the student's family notified the superintendent and board of their investigation into Clark's misconduct, and in May they notified the board president of the allegations against Shakespeare. Shakespeare still serves as principal of Andalusia High School.

“Defendant’s indifference to Minor Child’s suffering is not compliant with federal law and created a hostile environment for Minor Child that tangibly affected her mental health,” the lawsuit states. “Minor Child has experienced severe emotional distress due to such indifference and has struggled with insomnia and loss of appetite, among other things.”

The Andalusia City Schools Board of Education voted to not renew Clark’s contract on May 21, 2018 without explanation. Based on WSFA 12 News’ investigation, Clark was never formally placed on leave after the Andalusia Police Department launched an investigation.

The lawsuit outlines seven charges against the defendants including Title IX violations, retaliation, civil rights violations, failure to train and supervise school employees in response to sexual misconduct and assault, failure to implement proper policies and procedures and monitoring, intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery.

The lawsuit requests a judgement of compensatory damages for psychological and emotional distress, punitive damages, and injunctive relief - forcing the school board to take steps to prevent sex-based discrimination and harassment.

Despite the specific allegations outlined in the complaint, no criminal charges have been handed down. At last check, Andalusia Police Chief Paul Hudson confirmed the police department has an open investigation into Clark. Hudson said he requested assistance with the investigation from the State Bureau of Investigations.

“We don’t have enough probable cause to obtain a warrant,” Hudson said.

The police chief said his department hadn’t received any allegations against Shakespeare so APD is not investigating him.

On Aug. 9, 2018 the State Department of Education notified Clark in a letter it was proposing to revoke and non-renew his state teaching certifications because he had “engaged in a sexual relationship" with a student.

Clark promptly appealed this decision and requested a hearing. So far, a hearing date hasn’t been set. Alabama State Department of Education communication director Michael Sibley said the department was waiting on updates from law enforcement on this case.

ALSDE confirmed Clark is not currently employed by a public school in Alabama.

The attorneys who filed this lawsuit, Brandy Lee, Susan Han, and Josh Stemle, issued a joint statement about their findings.

"The wrongful conduct and failures of the school and its officials are reprehensible in this case," the attorneys stated. "The school and the administration have a duty to protect the students, including my client, and they failed miserably. The damage to my client as a result of the wrongful conduct of the Defendants is serious and real. Unfortunately the legal claims can’t repair the damage done to her. However, we hope the Defendants will take responsibility for their wrongful actions and ensure this does not happen to any other student at the Andalusia High School.”

Attorney Bill Alverson, who represents the Andalusia City Schools Board of Education, said Tuesday the defendants have not been served with the lawsuit, and therefore he couldn’t speak specifically to the items in the lawsuit.

However, Alverson said the school system has found nothing to substantiate the allegations.

Alverson said the school system was made aware of the allegations after the mother of the student went to the police department, and it was never brought to the school system as a school matter.

The police chief confirmed to WSFA 12 News that after the mother reported the allegations to police, the police department notified the school system about the investigation.

The lawsuit says after the student’s drug overdose, the police department secured search warrants for the student’s house and the high school.

“Thus, the school was notified almost immediately of the police investigation into the relationship between Minor Child and Coach,” the lawsuit stated.

Alverson said the school system always cooperates with law enforcement investigations.

“The school system takes these matters incredibly seriously,” Alverson said.

Court records indicate Clark is now residing in Morgan County. After lengthy efforts, WSFA 12 News found no direct means of communication to obtain a response from Clark.

Clark coached the Andalusia High School men’s basketball team for two seasons and took the team to the state 4A semifinals in his second season.

Shakespeare was named District 2 Principal of Year by the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) in 2018.

Read the original version of this article at wsfa.com.