March 24, 2014

Teacher, district sued over sexual relationship

A former student is suing Rachelle Heenan and the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school district.

A former student is suing the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw school district and a former forensic science teacher alleging that he suffered emotional and physical damage during a sexual relationship with the teacher.

Mark Smith — a pseudonym to protect the student’s privacy — alleged in a lawsuit filed Friday in Tarrant County civil court that Rachelle Heenan took advantage of his immature and underdeveloped mental state of mind when she repeatedly engaged the boy in sexual encounters during school events, in various hotels and in her vehicle.

Heenan was placed on administrative leave in May 2012, and was indicted in February 2013 on a charge of an improper relationship between an educator and student. She was given five years of deferred adjudicated probation in a plea bargain agreement, according to the Tarrant County district attorney’s office. She also voluntarily relinquished her teaching certificate.

Bobbie Edmonds, an attorney for the former student, said that the relationship with Heenan damaged Smith mentally and emotionally and that it has also delayed his plans to begin his career in the Marine Corps.

“He was mentally impacted by what happened,” Edmonds said. “He was impressionable, and there was the age difference and the fact that she was a teacher.” she said.

Heenan was 34 at the time of the illegal relationship with the student. She did not return calls seeking comment

Kristin Courtney, a spokeswoman for the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw district, said the district obtained a copy of the lawsuit but could not comment.

“We are not able to comment on any pending litigation, so therefore are not able to speak about the lawsuit,” she said.

Court documents described how the relationship began when Smith, then 17 and a minor, was a student at the district’s Hollenstein Career and Technology Center during his senior year, when he was preparing for a career as a diesel mechanic in the Marine Corps. He was to enter the military a day after graduation in June 2012.

In February 2012, Heenan and Smith met in her forensic science class and soon began sending illicit text messages. The “sexting” continued, and the relationship soon escalated to the point where Heenan and Smith met in a private gym parking lot and also checked in to a hotel, where they had sex.

Edmonds alleges that Heenan took advantage of his self-confidence, immaturity and dependency issues and “assaulted, raped and battered him in her capacity of teacher/educator, in violation of the law,” according to court documents.

The suit also described how the boy damaged school district property in excess of $24,000. Edmonds declined to discuss what the student did out of concern that he might be identified but said the emotional trauma of what happened led the former student to cause the damage.

The Saginaw district also “failed to provide proper supervision, failed to act to warn or otherwise protect young victims and failed to secure the school premises from the sexual assaults that occurred on school premises and at school sponsored events and activities,” the lawsuit states.

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