Family sues Adventist officials after sexual assault on Arlington campus

08/08/2014 6:26 PM

08/08/2014 6:27 PM

The family of a teenage girl who was sexually assaulted by a teacher and basketball coach on the campus of the Burton Adventist Academy in Arlington is suing the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, saying officials did not do enough to protect the girl while she was at school.

In June, Carlos E. Rodriguez, 37, pled guilty in Tarrant County court to continued sexual abuse of a child under 14 and was sentenced to 30 years in prison without possibility of parole. The assaults took place in 2012 when the girl was 13 and in the eighth grade, according to the court documents.

The family still lives in the area and waited until after the criminal case was completed to sue, one of their attorneys said. They are not named in court documents to protect the girl’s privacy.

The family is seeking damages in excess of $1 million.

“This has been pretty traumatic, and she has been in counseling and will continue to be in counseling,” said attorney Hal Brown. “She has the strong support of her family.”

An official at Burton Academy, a private school owned by the Texas conference, declined to comment. Officials of the Alvarado-based conference could not be reached Friday to comment.

Rodriguez is also named as a defendant.

The school on Kelly Elliott Road goes from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

Rodriguez had been a teacher, mentor and coach to the girl since the sixth grade, according to the suit filed in Tarrant County civil court. But starting in fall 2012, Rodriguez was often alone with the girl — sometimes on the pretense of studying the Bible.

Rodriguez got the girl out of regular classes with the knowledge of at least one other teacher to spend “an inordinate amount of time with him,” the suit says.

A senior clergyman at the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church contacted Child Protective Services about Rodriguez’s “unseemly contacts” with the girl, so school and Texas conference officials should have been suspicious about the relationship, the suit says.

Marissa Gonzales, a spokeswoman for CPS, confirmed that the clergyman’s report was investigated but said details of the investigation are confidential.

Rodriguez “gained access in order to groom and abuse her because of his status and position as a teacher and coach,” according to the suit. The school owed a duty “to students and parents to protect students from injury, harm or danger,” it said.

The girl let someone know about the assaults in April 2013.

Tarrant County criminal court records list the offense date as Dec. 27, 2013, but the suit states that the teen was “repeatedly raped” starting in December.

Tarrant County prosecutor Dale Smith said Rodriguez pled guilty on June 2. The maximum sentence on the charge is life in prison. Under the plea deal, he will serve 30 years with no parole.

“The family was on board with the plea,” he said.

Max B. Baker, 817-390-7714

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